Does brainstorming work?
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The idea-generating process known as brainstorming has come under some intense fire recently. Critics contend that it suspends much-needed criticism and conflict while suppressing the creative ideas of introverts, among other shortcomings.
But a new Forbes.com article defends the value of brainstorming as an important part of the development of creative ideas.
The article argues that critics of brainstorming fail to realize two essential realities: that brainstorming is rarely done properly and that it isn’t a stand-alone process.
Alex Osborn, the founder of the brainstorming method, established specific rules for brainstorming, many of which aren’t followed in the typical “brainstorming” session. The rules include:
- Generate as many ideas as possible.
- Defer judgment on all ideas.
- Generate wild ideas.
- Build upon each other’s ideas.
“When most groups brainstorm, they shout out ideas as single, self-contained units and not as building blocks for new ideas,” according to David Burkus, the article author. “They rarely take the time to combine ideas already on the wall, or build upon someone else’s idea. The real genius to brainstorming isn’t the number of ideas listed in a short period of time. Instead, it’s the many various combinations of ideas that can develop when individuals share their thoughts with each other. Those combinations could never occur apart from interaction."
Arguing that brainstorming isn’t a stand-alone process, Burkus continues, “Every major creative process involves some idea generation stage like brainstorming, but also stages that evaluate, prototype and implement ideas. The end result of brainstorming is a list of ideas that may or may not solve the problem at hand. If you’re looking just at that list, and no idea jumps out as the perfect solution, it’s easy to believe the session was a failure. That’s what makes other stages so necessary.”
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