The myth of the brainstorming session

Why you can’t schedule creativity

The origins of the brainstorming session

  1. Defer judgment (don’t get upset when people say bad ideas)
  2. Reach for quantity (come up with as many ideas as possible)

What goes on in your brain during a group brainstorming session

1. Fear of judgment from people in positions of power

2. Extroverts take center stage

Source: The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths

3. Groups hate scary ideas


The incubation period: the forgotten step to great ideas

  1. Preparation (individual study to focus your mind on the problem and explore its dimensions)
  2. Incubation (the problem enters your unconscious mind and nothing appears to be happening externally)
  3. Intimation (you get a “feeling” that a solution is on the way)
  4. Illumination (your creative idea moves from preconscious processing to conscious awareness)
  5. Verification (your idea is consciously verified, expanded upon, and then executed)
The Five Stages Of Your Creative Process
Slide from Joshua Slayton, Engineer at AngelList Keynote

Re-thinking the brainstorm

Start with alone time

Follow with a group session

How we “brainstorm” at Crew

  • Allow for tangents. Sometimes going off in different directions during a conversation opens up opportunities for a wide range of connections to be made. Keep the topic in mind but research shows that a few injections of humor and wit along the way can spark novel ideas.
  • No time limit. Why end a meeting early if it’s producing tons of ideas? And why force a meeting if nothing’s coming from it? We’ve had meetings go for a couple hours and others last only a few minutes. However long your meeting is, let it go until you notice the creative output stalling. Then, shut it down.
  • Don’t force immediate conclusions. Ending some meetings without a clear answer is tough but sometimes it’s necessary. When you’re faced with a challenging problem, sometimes it’s best to remove from the problem rather than stare directly at it. The ideas you generate at first may not be the best but letting them sit for a while can provoke new connections, leading you to where the good stuff lies.



Founder/CEO @unsplash @mikaelcho

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store