If you are keeping up with the world, you will see that more and more companies and managers are moving away from brainstorming sessions, and for good reason.

These sessions not only produce no effective result, more often than not, they stamp out the creative fire in your employees, or team.

But I think this awareness is not spreading fast enough, as many companies still implement weekly/daily brainstorming sessions, spending away valuable time and negatively affecting the employees.

Here are 5 ways in which brainstorming can affect creativity:

1. YOU without THEM can generate better ideas

When you gather a group of people for brainstorming, there are a lot of things going on – everybody is talking, and expressing their opinions and ideas. In a situation like that, your brain cannot give its undivided attention to innovative or creative thinking as you are spending most of the time politely listening to your colleague and nodding at them.

Infact, researchers go as far as saying that, creativity is boosted by solitudinous experiences like meditation; given that, how can you expect your team members to come up with out-of-the-box ideas in a commotive situation like brainstorming?

Here’s what you can do to help your team members generate creative ideas:

  • Instead of brainstorming, implement brain-writing; give them time to think by themselves and ask them to pen down the ideas for submission.
  • Give them authority on the execution of the idea, if the idea is good enough. We have been practicing this at my company Hiver for over an year now; we make the employee who comes up with an idea, the mini-CEO of the project, and give them all the authority to execute at their will. This, I must say, has given us tremendous results in terms of boosting creativity at work.

2. Disagreements will distract you

Agitation, heated arguments and debates are not uncommon in brainstorming sessions. They will shift the focus from finding an unconventional-but-feasible idea to self propagating one’s own ideas.

An environment like that will definitely put you in a non-creative mode.

For example, your team member suggests something which you think is impractical and so, you voice your opinion. Your team member gets offended and tries to support his idea and slowly everybody joins either the ‘for’ group or the ‘against’ group. Now, what happened? The brainstorming session, the focus of which was to find a workable idea, turned into a debate session.

Despite the fact that criticism is not encouraged in brainstorming sessions, heated discussions happen more often than not.

3. Anchoring

This is how it usually goes in a brainstorming session – someone will make an obvious suggestion in the beginning, which now rests safe, and is deemed feasible, and everyone forms a cognitive bias to it.

After that, whatever idea comes our way, we always measure it relative to the first idea.

The session comes to an end, and all you have is the not-so-creative first idea or a few variations of it.

This first idea kind of sets boundaries to the thought process and we are not very willing think much beyond this ‘safe’ idea.

This is called the anchoring effect and is the best deterrent for creative thinking.

Also, easy and obvious ideas are a way for some of us to feel like we are contributing, without really putting in much effort. Admit it, we all have done it some time or the other!

4. Under pressure to give ideas

What do you do when you are in a brainstorming session where everyone is giving ideas?

Two destructive things:

  1. In your eagerness to contribute like the others, you will not really take the time to explore new possibilities.
  2. In order to not embarrass yourself, you won’t entertain ridiculous ideas. A psychology today article states that – to be creative try being a little silly and in a group setting most people will do exactly the opposite.

These brainstorming sessions literally murder the ability to push the boundaries and unconventional thinking. Here is an interesting HBR case study on time pressure and creativity.

With more than forty percent of American workers reporting chronic workplace stress, the long-term impact of stress and its influence on the human creative condition and business can be detrimental, says Rick Hanson PhD, a California based neuropsychologist (Forbes).

5. Group thinking

Of course, in any situation there are loudmouths who flaunt their ideas and there are bystanders who, all though have good ideas, or have the capability to generate good ideas, they would rather not contribute. There is nothing wrong with that, there are introverts and extroverts and it is best to accept that.

What’s wrong is letting only the loudest ideas survive instead of the most creative ideas.

In group brainstorming, that is exactly what happens. You are not only creating a platform where only people who can speak up will participate, but you are also naturally reducing the volume of ideas that can make your way.

Additionally, people who don’t like to argue tend to quickly agree to what everyone is saying instead of putting forth their true opinions, discouraging creativity.

All this, in short, ruins the purpose of brainstorming itself.

Two solutions I can suggest are these :

  1. Brain-writing (refer to point 1)
  2. Speed storming. A situation where people discuss in pairs and the pairs keep changing every 5 minutes or so (kinda like speed dating). Most people are comfortable with one-on-one conversations than group discussions.

Conclusion

Even those of us who are not in an explicitly creative field need creativity to excel in our careers and differentiate ourselves. We talk about innovation all the time, but fail to realise that innovation comes from creativity. That’s why it is important to do everything possible to keep the creativity alive in an organization/employee/human being.

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

Albert Einstein

Featured image source