Why the usual brainstorming methods don’t work

There are AT LEAST five problems with the usual lets-go-around-the-table approach:

  1. Getting stuck, as people inevitably want to “chew on” one idea and all of its pros and cons.
  2. Some people inevitably monopolize the discussion and force the group to get stuck discussing their pet idea. You run out of time after only 3 or 4 ideas were put forward.
  3. Some ideas never get heard, because people are introverted or deferential and others are too quick to shout them down or react negatively.
  4. It is exhausting and boring to muddle through half-formed ideas, to fight with people who want to monopolize the discussion, and to figure out whether any one idea is worth pursuing further
  5. There usually isn’t a method for selecting the idea that seems best, nor to follow up on it with action items

There is a different way. It’s called affinity diagramming.

The first time I saw it in action my jaw hit the floor. Not only were everyone’s ideas heard, the process was FAST, and we got WAY MORE ideas than we could have through the usual “let’s go around the table and each say one idea.”

With affinity diagramming, you don’t get stuck on one person’s ideas, and you don’t get bogged down simply because it takes time to chew over each idea. Everyone gets to have a voice, and all the ideas get a fair hearing. The group gets a chance to process the ideas and select which one seems best at the time.

Affinity diagramming works if you are genuinely interested in soliciting ideas from your team, and encouraging better problem-solving from them as a group. It not only helps to delegate the work, but it creates buy-in because everyone get to be involved in the process.


More on affinity diagramming and other creativity tools for professionals at RightBrainSolutions.org.

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