Why brainstorming might not be the best choice for your creative process?

Anyone working with creative processes knows that insights do not always come naturally. So, often, we need to ask colleagues for help. After all, two heads always think better than one and this is the reason that co-created projects tend to be more effective. But in order to make it all flow in the best

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Anyone working with creative processes knows that insights do not always come naturally. So, often, we need to ask colleagues for help. After all, two heads always think better than one and this is the reason that co-created projects tend to be more effective. But in order to make it all flow in the best way, this process needs to be well organized. This is why, many professionals use techniques such as brainstorm to facilitate creation. But is it the best alternative?

First, what is a brainstorm?

This term is commonly used to suggest an informal exchange of ideas about a project. But, brainstorming is actually a meeting with specific techniques and methods so that it is better used among the participants.

It is usually scheduled in advance, so that people can reflect on the topic, but always taking care not to bring closed ideas to the meeting. In addition, a facilitator must be present in order to prevent the moment from being chaotic, controlling time and ensuring that all necessary issues are discussed.

Another essential point in this practice is the environment, which must be designed to facilitate collaboration, making participants comfortable to present their ideas. After preparing all this, it is necessary to clearly present the objective of the meeting and, from there, a person complements the idea said by another colleague, building solutions that they probably would not have managed alone.

After all, what are the disadvantages of this methodology?

Although the brainstorm represents an advance to the creative process, when compared to an individual thought, it may not be the most recommended method for co-creation. Professor Leigh Thompson, from the Kellogg School of Management, ensure it is not. According to her – and with a research conducted at the University of Texas – these are some of the arguments that support the statement:

# 1 – People are not completely comfortable speaking their ideas out loud

Even considering that the brainstorm technique values a welcoming environment, in which the ideas presented will not be judged, this is not always the case. The reason is that some people find it more difficult to express themselves at certain times – which can be a trait of a more introspective personality or even a feeling of shame caused by the situation. So, good ideas (or bad ones that would result in interesting solutions) are simply not said.

# 2 – Bad ideas spoken with good eloquence seem more attractive

It is natural that some people find it easier to express their opinions, which is very positive! But in a brainstorm, this can have unintended consequences: in a four-person meeting, two of the participants are likely to monopolize about 62% of the conversation. And so, these people can suggest some ideas that are not so good but, because they are said in a convincing way, they have a higher level of acceptance.

# 3 – Early ideas disproportionately influence the rest of the meeting

The brainstorm initially aims to be a creative stimulus for the development of a project – but not the creation of the project itself. Therefore, the first ideas shared (probably by the most resourceful people) tend to direct the entire meeting. That is, these suggestions tend to be only complemented by the participants and, therefore, new alternatives are not put on the table.

And if the brainstorm may not be indicated, what is the best option?

Professor Leigh Thompson – and the University of Texas – point to the technique called brainwriting as a more efficient alternative. The curious thing is that this technique follows some of the principles of the brainstorm, such as the presence of a facilitator and the presentation of clear objectives. The difference is that there is a time for participants to write their ideas anonymously. This is important because it brings into the conversation ideas from more timid people or professional beginners, who may also be inhibited.  

Then, all ideas are presented for discussion, allowing for the emergence of other ideas and making the meeting even more creative and balanced. This methodology has already been adopted by some successful teams, such as the producers of the American television series Breaking Bad and the team at the Kellogg School of Management. Thus, we can conclude that brainwriting is, at the very least, interesting.

In general, it is always good to have a choice when it comes to the creative process. This is because each technique can be better for a given situation and not for another, according to the purpose and profile of the participants. And nothing prevents us from reconciling two or more methods, such as brainwriting and brainstorm, if this optimizes people’s potential for innovation, allowing for a more enriching discussion.