Brainstorming is bad. Let's replace it.

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Why is brainstorming such an engrained part of agency life? And why haven't we modernized a 60+ year old idea?

Published in: Marketing, Education, Technology
  • Very inspiring slides! Concerning your last question: we are trying to address exactly the mentioned issues by providing online creativity techniques (see www.ideaclouds.net). I would be interested in our opinion about our approach!
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Brainstorming is bad. Let's replace it.

  1. 1. May 2014 BRAINSTORMING IS BAD FOR BUSINESS A deck by Kristin Mommers
  2. 2. •Agree that brainstorming is bad •Understand the weaknesses of brainstorming •Identify potential alternatives •Work toward a better “brainstorm” BY THE END OF THIS PRESENTATION, WE WILL:
  3. 3. “Evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups” ! - Adrian Furnham, organizational psychologist
  4. 4. The only people enthusiastic about joining a “brainstorm meeting” are the interns. ! Typically, everyone else comes prepared with blank stares and better things to do.
  5. 5. Why do agencies love brainstorming?
  6. 6. Why do agencies love brainstorming? Because it generates ideas… !
  7. 7. Why do agencies love brainstorming? Because it generates ideas… ! Because it’s part of our history…
  8. 8. The birthplace of brainstorming was an agency.
  9. 9. Well, an ad man. Alex Osborne, the O in BBDO, coined the concept in the 1950’s to solve a problem vexing his creative teams. They were smart enough, generally creative, but they, like all of us, were not immune to criticism in group work. ! Thus, brainstorming was born.
  10. 10. 1. Don’t criticize. 2. Freewheel - encourage all ideas. 3. Go for quantity. More is better. 4. Build on others’ ideas. BRAINSTORMING CAME WITH RULES Osborne gave us four principles for creating a nonjudgmental atmosphere.
  11. 11. So how did Osborne know he had solved his problem?
  12. 12. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question.” !
  13. 13. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question.” ! “One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets.”
  14. 14. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question.” ! “One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets.” ! Quantity. He knew people were coming up with ideas.
  15. 15. There’s just one small problem…
  16. 16. BRAINSTORMING DOESN'T ACTUALLY WORK
  17. 17. •People working independently come up with more, and better, ideas. •Performance drops as the group size increases. •There’s one exception - online brainstorming groups work well. We’ve since learned: Research has disputed the value of brainstorming since 1963.
  18. 18. Online brainstorming works really, really well. Look at Wikipedia. ! When managed, the group’s performance actually improves as more people contribute. ! Why? It could be the screens blocking us from peer review.
  19. 19. Still a brainstorming-believer? ! It’s ok. Research also proves brainstorm-participants believe that their group performed far better than it actually did.
  20. 20. Why do the rest of brainstorms fail?
  21. 21. 1. Social loafing: someone tends to sit back and let others do the work PSYCHOLOGISTS OFFER 3 EXPLANATIONS
  22. 22. 1. Social loafing: someone tends to sit back and let others do the work 2. Production blocking: only one person can talk at once PSYCHOLOGISTS OFFER 3 EXPLANATIONS
  23. 23. 1. Social loafing: someone tends to sit back and let others do the work 2. Production blocking: only one person can talk at once 3. Evaluation apprehension: fear of looking stupid in front of peers PSYCHOLOGISTS OFFER 3 EXPLANATIONS
  24. 24. Another point to consider: Just because you tell people not to judge others’ ideas doesn’t mean they won’t feel judged by others. It’s human nature.
  25. 25. So, how can we truly combat these 3 failures of brainstorming?
  26. 26. Let’s not brainstorm about brainstorming. ! Let’s not brainstorm at all.
  27. 27. The following 5 ideas are thought starters for the new agency “brainstorm”
  28. 28. 1. Social loafing 2. Production blocking 3. Evaluation apprehension Keep these challenges in mind: The following 5 ideas are thought starters for the new agency “brainstorm”
  29. 29. Like a creative brief, but with room to fill things in. What’s the background? Objectives? Timing? Budget? ! Things to leave blank: Examples from other brands, ideas that meet X objective, ideas that meet Y objective, ideas we as an agency would be excited about 1. WORKSHEETS Thought starter
  30. 30. Brief in the larger group, then split everyone into pairs. ! Request ideas by EOD, not EOmeeting. 2. DYADS Thought starter
  31. 31. Can we create an anonymous Google Doc? ! Are there resources already available to accommodate this? 3. ONLINE PORTALS Thought starter
  32. 32. Post our “brainstorm” topics in the agency kitchen. ! Let people contribute at their own pace. Incentivize participation by rewarding the winning idea. Starbucks giftcards? 4. BULLETIN BOARDS Thought starter
  33. 33. Can we pass out blank notecards for people to fill in ideas before the meeting, then shuffle them and discuss as a group? ! Make contributions anonymous, and encourage discussion. 5. NOTECARDS AND VOTING Thought starter
  34. 34. It should help with the evaluation-apprehension if we all look ridiculous. 6. BEER AND COSTUMES Thought starter
  35. 35. These aren’t perfect solutions. But brainstorming needs to be laid to rest.
  36. 36. Let’s work together to find an improvement. Have an idea? Get at me @kmommers
  37. 37. THANK YOU

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