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  • Tim Herrera

Do you believe in brainstorming for developing creative ideas?



If you were developing a communication plan or an advertising campaign would you want input from a specialized team or an all-inclusive one? Is creativity the product of an all-inclusive group effort, or a small specialized team?


In the post Copyranter: Ban brainstorming blogger Mark Duffy laments that firms are moving from a small team approach to a brainstorming method for creativity development. He asks the question, “Does a ‘storm’ create, or does it damage, destroy and kill?”


Many people don’t buy into the notion that brainstorming is effective. Sometimes, it might work for solving group problems but with creativity not so much. Many people believe innovation comes from a place where it cannot be forced and brainstorming is a forced process. People sit around a table and spit out ideas. Someone writes down those ideas. Then the group collaborates and decides how best to approach an issue. But does creativity work that way?


In an article “Why Brainstorming Doesn't Spark Innovation”, for Inc., Jessica Stillman writes: “If you're after innovative ideas, no matter how you tweak your brainstorming method, it's about as likely to lead you where you want to go as a map of a flat Earth.”


Stillman quotes sources that insist brainstorming is a very old practice that goes against the grain of where new and creative ideas come from.


Rebecca Greenfield agrees. In an article for Fast Company (“Brainstorming Doesn't Work; Try This Technique Instead”) she insists brainstorming favors the first ideas and creates conformity pressure. She writes about “brainwriting” as an effective method. That’s where people write down their ideas first, pass them around, and generate a discussion. It’s an alternative to shouting out ideas. Greenfield quotes a study that found brainwriting groups generated 20% more ideas and 42% more original ideas as compared to traditional brainstorming groups.


I’m not convinced brainstorming is very effective in creative situations. What works better is for a few creative people to come up with an initial idea, then perhaps a small team can fine-tune. I vote for specialized teams. And you?


(Tim Herrera is the author of Media Training: A Guide to Giving Great Interviews and several other books on communications.)

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