4 Reasons Brainstorming Sessions Don't Work

Brainstorming among creative people is a powerful tool. By bringing multiple perspectives to the table, your team gains insight you might never have considered, plus you’re adding years of experience to solving the creative problem. But most brainstorming sessions don’t yield much — or fail completely. If that’s your problem, here’s four key reasons you’re not getting more from your creative team:

1. People don’t take it seriously. Effective brainstorming is serious business. You need to find the right location, eliminate distractions, have a clear set of goals, understand the problem, and assemble the right people. If you think brainstorming is about eating donuts and “kicking around ideas,” you’re probably wasting your time.

2. People judge too soon. Never start judging ideas until you get them all on the table. Even more important — never criticize anyone, even if you think their idea is lame. Once you criticize someone in the room, they get embarrassed, pull back, and stop sharing ideas. And who knows? Their next idea might have been the one that saved the company.

3. People expect quick answers. The key to brainstorming is percolation. Like good coffee or fine wine, ideas need to simmer and age. They need to encounter other perspectives. They need to develop. Brainstorming is about getting ideas out there, comparing them to others, and sifting through ideas that won’t work. That simply takes time.

4. People are afraid they’ll look stupid. Truly effective brainstorming means that the participants have to be vulnerable. They need to shed their ego at the door, and lose their fear of being wrong. Picasso said, “It’s taken me all my life to have the mind of a child.” When you have a team that can reach that place of openness and vulnerability, you have a chance to discover breakthrough ideas.

How does your team stack up with these benchmarks for brainstorming?

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Phil Cooke
Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California (cookepictures.com)where he helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."