Skip to content

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work and 3 Alternatives That Do

March 11, 2016

Macnaught, Stacey “Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work and 3 Alternatives That Do” PUBLISHED ON: MAR 10, 2016 retrieved March 11 2016

Brainstorming doesn’t work. But these 3 alternative ideation tactics could help you to generate over 100 ideas in just 30 minutes.

If you’ve ever been a part of an unproductive brainstorming session, you’ll know just how much time this process can sap and how little return it may actually generate.

All too often, brainstorming sessions involve a handful of individuals locked in a room for an hour or two throwing half baked thoughts on the table. There are the quiet participants who say very little – introverts who are perhaps uncomfortable laying their ideas bare for the criticism of their peers in such an unforgiving environment. Then there are extroverts who lead the contributions, sometimes at the expense of quieter participants.

In other words, brainstorming comes with a complex social dynamic that can limit the output of those involved. Because of that, it’s all too easy to spend hours in a room with a number of people and come out with a post it note with one or two passable ideas on it.

That doesn’t scale.

But there are other methods that make ideation more efficient, more scalable and a more enjoyable experience for participants.

108 Ideas in 30 Minutes with 635 Brainwriting

635 Brainwriting is a method of ideas generation devised by Professor Bernd Rohrbach, who devised the method and published it in German sales industry magazine, Absatzwirtschaft (volume 12, 1969).

Traditionally, this method works like this:

  • A project leader creates a “problem statement,” or a brief that outlines the goals of the session and key information participants need to know.
  • There are 6 participants who each receive a worksheet. This worksheet contains the problem statement and then simply 3 columns with 6 rows of blank boxes
  • Round 1 involves all participants working in silence, writing down 3 ideas to meet the brief on the first row of the worksheet. This round is 5 minutes long.
  • At the end of that round, each person passes their sheet to the left, so everyone now has a sheet with 3 pre-written ideas on. In round 2, they create 3 more ideas. These could be 3 ideas they already have or could be ideas inspired by the ones already on the sheet.
  • This is repeated for 6 rounds.

If each of your participants has completed their sheet, that is 108 ideas in just 30 minutes.

You can also carry this method out digitally using this online tool.

The Worst Ideas Method

The ‘Worst Ideas’ method is one devised by Bryan W Mattimore, author of Ideastormers.

This is a tactic that aims to overcome some of the problems of brainstorming by flipping the session to ask participants to think up the worst possible ideas against a brief. This eradicates people’s self-consciousness about presenting their ideas and opens up discussion a little more. It’s easier to come up with a terrible idea than a good one! From there, the discussion turns to what the opposite of those bad ideas might be or what might have to be done to those bad ideas to make them good.

This adds structure to brainstorming and makes the session more open.

The Note and Vote Method

The Note and Vote method is the tactic of choice for the Google Ventures team. This relies more on individual ideation than on group ideation.

Each person in the session is given 10 minutes to individually write down as many ideas as they possibly can. They’re then given a further 2 minutes to pick out a couple of favorites from their list.

From here, everyone reads out their best ideas while they are noted on a whiteboard. Participants then vote for their favorite on the board.

Experimenting with Tactics

Ideas are hot currency in business, whether it’s coming up with product features, content campaigns or brand names. So continuing to experiment with ideation tactics from the people in your company is absolutely essential.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: