Brainstorming Does Not Work
Kevin Ashton

Stop Blamestorming Brainstorming

There’s nothing wrong with Brainstorming. It’s a tool. It’s benign. Plus, when used correctly, it’s awesomesauce. I mean, really, really good stuff. The problem lies in people. And moreso, people who simply do not understand the tool and process, and/or those that bastardize it out of ignorance, hubris, or personal gain.

Look, I’ll be honest in that MOST organizations ruin brainstorming by flippantly using it as business jargon to ‘come up with ideas’, but it’s so much more than that.

It is a sacred space — which has rules — that is but one part of a process and one tool in a toolbox. How do I know? Well, I use it and participated in it ad nauseam while earning my Master’s Degree at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College.

But I’m not here to bore you with credentials or cries of refutations that “brainstorming works!” or even “brainstorming is BS!”. No, I’m here simply to tell you to stop listening to those with personal agendas (e.g. books to sell, consultation fees to procure) and start asking yourself about what problem you’re trying to solve when you want to use brainstorming. Honestly, it may not be the best tool given your task or challenge.

The key to a good brainstorming session, is an even better, hopefully neutral (i.e. nothing at stake in the session), facilitator. That ringmaster will lay down the ground rules, muzzle the loudmouths and bullies, and spur and nudge you along to keep digging to not only achieve quantity in ideas, but to take them to the next level to quality ideas.

If your boss is facilitating, well, you might as well doodle away on your post-it note. Obviously, it’s not feasible to always pay a trained facilitator, but I’d bet someone in a disparate department — let’s say Accounting — would be a lot better than the person who has decision-making power.

Kevin Ashton has some interesting notions and important gripes — and I even look forward to reading his book (which is likely the impetus for writing his Medium post…) — but don’t blame the car that hits a pedestrian. Blame the driver for not doing their job in driving the car.

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