Does Brainstorming Work?

Brainstorming as a formal process is credited to Alex Osborn in the 1950s, who argued that people in groups are more creative than the same number of people working alone. Unfortunately that doesn't always seem to be true. Researchers agree that it is puzzling that traditional brainstorming remains so prevalent. When it comes to generating creative ideas, interacting too soon - at the idea generating stage rather than at the evaluating stage - runs the risk of killing productivity. A New Yorker article entitle Groupthink, The Brainstorming Myth says, "The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they'll end up saying nothing at all."

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Osborn's research concluded that people on their own generated almost twice as many ideas as those in groups, and that brainstorming did not release the group's potential, yet human creativity persists as a group process.

In a traditional group brainstorm, people easily fall into the following traps that block creativity:

  • Letting other people do the work, or not wanting to look like the sucker who is doing all the work;
  • Groupthink - a fear of looking foolish or of offering a dissenting opinion in order to keep maintain harmony;
  • Competition for attention.

Technology can help. Powernoodle allows everyone to offer ideas anonymously, synchronously or asynchronously, and then collaborate to evaluate ideas and create action plans. The advantages of this kind of brainstorming process include:

  • More ideas, with more diverse thinking, creating more creative solutions;
  • A faster flow of ideas;
  • Greater commitment to decisions;
  • A transparent, documented process of idea generation;
  • High productivity and efficiency, despite team or group size;
  • Reduced meeting expenses;
  • Elimination of Groupthink.

Powernoodle provides a simple, structured process for leaders/facilitators to get the highest level of creativity and commitment from talented, motivated people. Organizations can implement it as an innovation platform company-wide, or group leaders can improve the climate for creativity one team at a time. It is economical and anyone with any meeting experience can use it successfully in no time at all, with an immediate ROI on its use.