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Hasse Jansen, 11 Oct '16

The Pros and Cons of Brainstorming, and the Best Alternatives

Brainstorming is great, but only if you do it right. Here are some new brainstorming variants to fuel your creative process in a structured way.

When you've reached a fork in the road or even a solid roadblock in your planning process, brainstorming can help you to find a clear pathway to a solution.

Brainstorming is a great way to encourage new ideas and concepts without filtering or judgment, and it is often used to elicit spontaneous ideas and suggestions to a problem.

However, brainstorming can be a flawed process if it is not approached in a structured way. This article will take a look at the pros and cons of brainstorming, and some of the most effective alternatives.

The Pros and Cons

There are many advantages to brainstorming, and it can be used in any industry and to solve most problems where a solution may not always be obvious.

Pros

The main benefits include:

• Discovering new perspectives

Brainstorming gives vision and perspective where these elements may not have existed before. It encourages free speech and creativity, helping to reveal new ideas and solutions.

• Defining problems

Spontaneous thinking in a low-pressure environment can often help to define a problem to the point where new alternative solutions start to appear.

• Equal participation

Brainstorming helps to avoid conflict and to give everybody a chance to air their views without immediate evaluation or judgment. In a brainstorming session, everybody should have an equal opportunity to participate in the discussion.

As mentioned previously, brainstorming needs to be approached in the right way in order to be effective. The good news, however, is that the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages.

Cons

The main pitfalls include:

• Time consuming

The brainstorming process can take time. It could be hours, or even days before a solution is reached.

• Utopian Ideas

Sometimes the ideas suggested are unworkable.

• Wiseacres

Colleagues may refuse to consider others' ideas or outvoice others.

• Facilitator required

Brainstorming requires a leader or facilitator who will take control of the session and ensure it reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

Some new twists on an old tradition

The old method isn’t without its flaws. But there are a number of things you can do to avoid the pitfalls mentioned. Take the old method as a starting point, and then put a twist on it to get the best of both worlds.

Here are some refreshing alternatives to the traditional brainstorming session.

1. Note and Vote

When you’ve got some initial ideas lined up, you may not know which one(s) to work on further.

Have team members vote for the idea(s) they think should be discussed further. The facilitator is responsible for making the final call.

2. Switch between group and individual work

The problem with brainstorming sessions is that they often involve large groups. What if some of your creative thinkers come up with their best ideas when they are on their own?

Splitting the session is a way to get around this problem. Ask everybody to go away and write out their ideas. Then, ask everybody to reconvene to discuss their ideas with the rest of the group.

And if that works well for you, nobody’s stopping you from going for a second (and third) round of individual work.

3. Brainwriting 6-3-5

Take six people, ask them for three ideas and give them five minutes to complete the task. At the end of five minutes, participants pass their sheet to the person next to them. That person then builds on the ideas on the sheet with their own thoughts. This continues until the sheets are full.

Final thoughts

Being stuck in a creative rut can happen to even the best brains on the planet. Brainstorming can be the solution, but only if it is done right. New variants and effective alternatives could help you to reach the right solution in the least amount of time.