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What Science & History Tell Us About Brainstorming, And How I Was Wrong
My latest dose of Intellectual Humility comes in the form of a tough realization: What I used to think about brainstorming is wrong.
If you read Dream Teams, you know how I explored all sorts of research about ways to make brainstorming groups more effective. Make sure the group has cognitive diversity. Start with extreme ideas. Add in wild cards. Don’t stop at idea generation—actually debate. In fact, F brainstorming altogether! Just have a debate.
But I’ve realized recently that, despite my efforts to poo-poo brainstorming, one of my personal go-to methods for coming up with creative ideas—ways to solve problems, improve things I’m writing, etc.—has actually been a type of it.
It’s not brainstorming in the strict sense that the guy who coined it, BBDO partner Alex Osborn, imagined in 1939. My method is more like workshopping ideas with people who really push my thinking. But it turns out that, by many people’s definition, this is “brainstorming” after all.
It’s just that my process is more painful than the usual white-board and bouncey balls brainstorm session.
I’ll show up to the bar armed with what I think is a great idea, only to have my director buddy shoot holes in it… and help me find a tangential idea that’s even stronger.
Or I’ll do a lot of thinking, then excitedly present my business partner with my solution to a problem we’re working on… after which she’ll suggest a different idea, or ask a single question that refutes the whole thing. But this will often lead me to a much more interesting solution than I’d thought up on my own.
Thinking about this has led me to write one of my mega-articles. This one’s about The Misunderstood History and Science of Brainstorming. https://www.shanesnow.com/articles/brainstorming is the direct link.
Please check it out and share!