The Long Lost Art of Brainstorming

Whatever happened to brainstorming?  I can remember doing a lot of it in college and maybe a little during internships, but more recently I haven’t been privy to a good old fashioned brainstorming session.  You know the ones I’m talking about – bringing together folks with different viewpoints to share ideas on a topic to foster creativity.

At a recent team meeting, I was reminded of the power of brainstorming and the creativity it generates.  In an effort to not succumb to “death by powerpoint”, we spent a lot of time in break-out sessions that challenged us to think outside of the box about our day-to-day roles and responsibilities.  One session that really stuck with me was called “Six Thinking Hats”…

According to the Mind Tools website, “Six Thinking Hats” is a “powerful technique that helps you look at important decisions from a number of different perspectives”.  The 6 colored hats represent different approaches to solving problems – i.e. red=emotional, black=pessimistic.  All team members “wear” the same hat at the same time – to bring collective, like-minded energy to the problem at hand.

In this case, we were given a question to ponder – how can we be more strategic? Our team “put on” our green hats, which represents taking a creative approach problem solving.  At first, everyone was a little hesitant to open up, but after about 2 minutes, I was astounded by the number of really good and solid ideas we were able to come up with just by putting our heads together and really focusing on 1 question.

The session brought me back to the lost art of brainstorming (that I don’t do enough of anymore) and the fact that the ideas generated from a group can be much stronger, more thoughtful, and more impactful than those of the individual.

One of our action items as a team will be to spend more time in these types of collaborative sessions and I encourage you to do the same.  Fifteen minutes spent focused on a single topic and wearing the right hat can foster some of your most creative solutions yet.

Image source: iStockphoto

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  • 1
    Carol Rosenstein
    February 22, 2011 - 7:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s not lost – just “misplaced”.
    I think our reliance on technology and social channels has refocused us to to not only talk but think in “sound bytes”. This means we have to look in more places and channels to find the seeds of good ideas and synthesize the snippets into a more cohesive kernel to turn something into a full blown idea that could work/translate into something bigger.
    The other aspect is the emergence of truly virtual teams/workplaces. While it’s tougher to do in virtual teams & environments it’s definitely do-able.
    I also think the extreme emphasis placed on finding the ROI or a quantitative benefit in everything has caused some of the displacement.
    There are places and hallways where true creativity thrives. In the end it’s up to executive leadership to not only support the measurable/quantifiable initiatives but also empower people to (regularly) spend some time on things that may not always lead to a tangible, immediate result. As managment typically asks us to “do more with less” this becomes harder.

    • 2
      February 22, 2011 - 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Carol for the response.

      All of your points are quite true – our increasingly tech-savvy world makes it more difficult to focus on the old-fashioned methods and techniques that once were. And we’ve got to think of new ways to be creative and foster innovative ideas.

      Great comments!


  • 3
    February 25, 2011 - 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi Liz – I love the topic of brainstorming! Here at SAP on our Global Social Media Marketing team we use it frequently to come up with ways to enhance our plans. We just did a team call not too long ago to see what new possibilities we should consider as part of our Sapphire Now social media plan in fact. I personally love brainstorming sessions because 2 brains (or more) are better than 1 and with all the great people around us it’s a way to really tap their ideas and unique perspective. In the past I’ve used some techniques with some of our other internal teams in Marketing Education around Mind Mapping. This video on YouTube is a good instructional step by step on how to do a mind map. if your interested. This technique was also something I have read alot about and was used by people like Leonardo Da Vinci, highlighted in the book “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”. This book itself is a great tool in fostering creativity and the mind mapping technique is a practical application of how to get the ideas flowing. It’s a quick read and pretty inexpensive on Amazon.

    • 4
      February 25, 2011 - 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Bonnie for your comments. I love that your team frequently engages in brainstorming activities – it must be one of the reasons why you always have such innovative social media programs and plans.

      I will definitely take a look at the YouTube video and check out the book as well.

      Great thoughts!

  • 5
    May 9, 2011 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    Just discovered your blog as Cathy Cooper posted in our NYC BWN community. “Whatever happened to brainstorming” resonated with me. In a organization largely comprised of virtual teams in multiple timezones, and the need to “do more with less” as Carol states, the ability to conduct brainstorming sessions is very difficult. But not impossible. I’ve no doubt that if we reincorporate this back into our way of doing business, the results will be striking. I’ve already made a note to check out Bonnie’s recommendations. Thank you.

    • 6
      May 9, 2011 - 8:48 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much Linda! Appreciate your thoughts on this topic. I do think we could all benefit from a little brainstorming.


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