Bartleby

Making brainstorming better

Let’s pour some thought bubbles into the ideas jacuzzi

The word “brainstorming” conjures up a vision of hell. It is someone saying, “Fire up the brainwaves barbecue.” It is trying desperately to work out where everyone else’s cursors have gone on a digital whiteboard. It is hearing the line “there are no bad ideas” and thinking “how did this get scheduled then?”

Yet brainstorming persists, and for decent reasons. Normal routines afford employees precious little time to think. Getting a group of people together is an opportunity to harness disparate viewpoints. Producing, filtering and selecting new ideas in an efficient way is an appealing proposition. So why is brainstorming often so painful?

The problem is that brainstorming must strike a balance between a series of competing imperatives. One tension is between creativity and feasibility. A brainstorm is meant to be…