I’ve just finished reading an interesting book by Professor Richard Wiseman called :59 seconds Think a little, Change a lot. It’s about scientifically proven advice over misleading myths, on which a chapter is on brainstorming.

Now from my experience from working in some large advertising agencies I’ve found group brainstorming to be nothing more than the so-called non creatives to have a go at it and what I’ve found is one person would become very loud and shout out “ideas” and the other account directors would follow like sheep without questioning the offer or actually looking to solve the problem, and for the majority of the time I found it a waste of time.

Then 1 hour later, and for some reason its always an hour, we would come out of the meeting with this idea dropped on my lap and I would then mention the problems of executing the “idea” and the original problem we sort of haven’t solved.

But the majority thought this was good so we had to be wrong, right?

Well from the research for this book they tested individual and group brainstorming and were amazed to discover that in the vast majority of the experiments, the participants working on their own produced a higher quantity and quality of ideas than those working in groups. Other research suggests that group brainstorming may fail, in part, because of a phenomenon known as ‘social loafing’ – a diffusion of responsibility.

In short, a large body of research now suggests that people using group brainstorming may have inadvertently been stifling, not stimulating, their creative juices. When working together they aren’t as motivated to put in the time and energy needed to generate great ideas, and end up spending more time thinking inside the box.

At most agencies I’ve always worked initially on my own to brainstorm and only come together afterwards to discuss the ideas and see if there are any obvious flaws or problems we will need to overcome before we present to our clients or to use it as a spark to create a new line of thinking.

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