Last week was an exercise in brainstorming.

Our biggest tradeshow of the year is coming up, and we didn’t have the right story yet.  So Alan, Carrie, and I met to come up with something.  Then we met again.  Then again.

vlcsnap-931788_jpg__853×480_And it was like that episode of the West Wing when the President is deciding whether to kill a known terrorist, and it’s in the situation room, and the joint chiefs of staff are presenting him with all the info, and they’re ready to take this guy out, and the president looks at them and says,

“You haven’t got it.”

And we didn’t have it.  So back to the brainstorming we went.  And eventually, we got it.  But it had me thinking about brainstorming all weekend.

A few months ago, I read an article that indicated that brainstorming in a group is not more effective than just thinking alone. I can’t find the exact article, but a cursory google led to hundreds of pages on “ground rules for brainstorming” “the myth of the brainstorming session” “sometimes it’s better to brainstorm alone” – in short, there are myriad articles on how brainstorming is not all it’s cracked up to be and how to make it more effective.

I’m an old-school brainstormer.  I believe in taking every idea that comes up and putting it up somewhere that everyone can see it.  I think seeing ideas helps generate more ideas.  And the whole point is to generate as many ideas as possible, then weed through them after.

I’ve always found that if you have enough ideas eventually you’ll hit a good one.  Sure, there’s a process of debate and valuation and examination, but getting the raw ideas is the most important part.

You know why this is hard?  And you know why I love doing it?  It’s for the same reason that asking dumb questions is hard.  And the same reason I love asking dumb questions.  You have to put aside your pride, put aside your well-honed ability to self-censor the random thoughts that pop into your head, put aside your carefully cultivated professionalism.

You have to say things out loud that may already sound terrible in your head.  You say things out loud that sound good in your head but terrible out loud.

But, eventually, you get it.

One thought on “Brainstorming

  1. achmad

    Thanks for this, Sheryl! I think about brainstorming – in the context of creative problem-solving, ego-asserting, challenging convention, and driving decision-making – a lot. My own sense is that the critical factor is also the most challenging factor: making certain that everyone at the table is encouraged to speak up. Without this, it’s the most vociferous – not the most insightful – whose ideas get adopted.


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