A Brainstorm? Really?

The question of brainstorming as a strategy comes up often at my job when kick-starting a new project, or in order to facilitate disparate teams to collaborate for the first time. I’ve never been a fan.

Maybe it’s because brainstorming starts the conversation with the impulse that no idea is a bad idea. Like using Microsoft Clippy as your inspiration for onboarding new users or modeling your HCM experience off of a Buzzfeed Quiz. Brainstorms dish out a buffet of solutions—the good, the bad, and the ugly—which always require tons of sifting through before the right answer, some how, comes tumbling out. For experienced, flexible-minded creatives, this filtering process has been happening internally since the first day of their careers—it’s how their brains work. Crowdsourcing it in a meeting just isn’t a good use of their time.

Professional creatives are trained to think a certain way; their thought process is centered on problem solving. Existing ideas are stacked up, modeled, judged, and expanded on in their minds all of the time, and a new problem to be solved will trigger the best, most relevant idea to come forward. So, when we do come together, the purpose is to stay focused and articulate already halfway structured ideas without having to postulate on far-reaching alternatives. Rather than mind-mapping our way into oblivion, it’s a linear thought process toward a solution.

It’s not to say brainstorms don’t help some teams—like the accounting department trying to rethink cost savings processes—but working with a creative team means quickly fleshing out the best ideas, dumping the bad ones, and asking ourselves: how are we going to pull this off?

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