A story this week in the Wall Street Journal underlined a thought that had been brewing in my mind for years: brainstorming sessions are more often than not, ineffective. This revelation might jolt the corporate world, where “brainstorming” is celebrated as a harbinger of innovative ideas.
Some years back, I was in a meeting where a supervisor gathered the “most creative people in the building.” The agenda was to tackle an issue the company faced. “Well, what are we going to do about it?” he asked, a question met with a deafening silence. Seconds turned into a few more seconds before he, flustered, said, “Maybe I’ve got the wrong people in the room!”
That incident, etched in my memory, exposed the flaw of brainstorming sessions. They are supposed to be an arena for open, unrestrained idea exchange. Yet, often they devolve into awkward silences, social anxieties, or worse, echo chambers. The loudest voices eclipse the introverted genius, while “groupthink” smothers out-of-box thinking.
In brainstorming, quantity trumps quality, undermining thoughtful deliberation. The most valuable ideas are not always the most immediate ones. They need a nurturing environment, not the pressured constraints of a brainstorming session.
Undeniably, collaboration is a catalyst for creativity. Yet, traditional brainstorming confuses collaboration with collective thinking. True collaboration respects and values diverse thought processes, fostering a synergistic blend of ideas. It invites individual reflection as much as group discussion.
Perhaps, it’s high time companies reevaluate their strategies. The modern workspace requires a shift from brainstorming to “brainswarming,” a method that allows for individual contemplation followed by group synthesis of ideas.
The notion that creativity can be summoned on demand, in a room filled with expectant faces, is a myth we need to debunk. Creativity doesn’t just occur; it requires the right ambience, mindset and respect for individual thought processes. To innovate, we must not merely gather the most creative minds, but ensure they have the freedom to be creative.
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