Why Brainstorming is Important & How to Do It
November 16, 2018
Personally, I love brainstorming whether it is one-on-one or in a group. There is an energy that flows between the participants and as that energy builds, more ideas begin to flow. Essentially, it is a highly collaborative experience intended to bring a wide range of ideas to the table, some of which will fall to the wayside, while others will get pulled and shaped into something concrete, but what I find most exciting is when a new idea emerges, something no one entered the room with, and through the meeting it grows and develops.
Why is Brainstorming Important
I recently attended a brainstorming session with Joe Master, Executive Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy in our University Communications Department and Craig Kampes, the Assistant Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Enrollment Management & Student Services, along with my Communications Manager, Rachel Semigran to improve our programmatic marketing content. Following that meeting, I asked Master about brainstorming. “Often we think of brainstorming as a way to come up with something original – that ‘aha’ moment. But in reality, it’s more about solving a problem.”
In our case, the brainstorming session helped us identify specific messaging ideas to better communicate the goals and benefits of our programs. We each walked into the meeting with certain ideas and expectations. “I have often found that the best brainstorming sessions end with a concession of sorts – of ego, of that desire to be right. An idea is always brilliant in your head. But when you throw it in the pot with other ideas, that’s when the magic happens,” argues Master. And magic happened in our brainstorming session. Yes, we each walked in with our own ideas, but sitting at the table, those ideas shifted and morphed into exciting new ones.
Kristen Price points out three benefits of brainstorming in her article entitled, The Importance of Brainstorming:
Encourages Critical Thinking
Which makes sense since brainstorming is meant to solve problems.
Gets You Out of Your Head
As Joe Master noted, we all walk into meetings with our own ideas, but the act of brainstorming forces us to consider and examine other people’s ideas.
Brainstorming Builds Teams
Since brainstorming is a collaborative experience, no one person walks out of the meeting taking ownership of the results, thus it an absolute team effort.
Effective Brainstorming at Work
Follow these helpful hints to host an effective brainstorming session:
Establish a Goal
Craig Kampes points out, “Brainstorming is valuable as long as it is focused on a goal.” He added, “It’s critical that in all cases a strategy is set, and all ideas track back to it.”
Provide Space to Draw
Art Markman in his Harvard Business Review article, describes the C-Sketching process where participants are required to draw versus talk because as he points out, “It’s hard for people to describe spatial relationships, so any solution that requires a spatial layout is better described with pictures than with words. Second, a large amount of the brain is devoted to visual processing, so sketching and interpreting drawings increases the involvement of those brain regions in idea generation.”
Provide A Distraction Free Space
Brainstorming can’t happen with email pings or ringing phones, it needs to occur in a space where the participants can be fully present.
Some brainstorming sessions end with strong results, while others may need more time. Even though the meeting ended, participant’s brains often keep processing, which makes it more likely to experience progress in the next meeting.
Food Fuels the Brain
A study In Psychological Research found tyrosine – an amino acid, which is found in bananas, cheese, almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and avocados (to name a few) has been shown “to have impressive effects on deep thinking and creative operations.”
Next time your team is struggling to find a solution to a problem, suggest a brainstorming session – you just might be surprised with the creative results.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies