Cancel That Brainstorm. There's a Better Way to Spur Good Ideas.

Cancel That Brainstorm. There's a Better Way to Spur Good Ideas.

Let's brainstorm some ideas for this column.

Co-workers who are annoying

You would like to replace artificial intelligence with your office? Office

Wardrobe malfunctions

You can shout them out. This brainstorming exercise, while it may seem like a good idea, is actually a bad one, and not just because I cannot hear you. It is highly doubtful that gathering people to exchange loosely-formed thoughts will be of any value, even though it's a big reason why many companies want their workers back at the office. Sheena Iyengar is a professor of Columbia Business School and says that these brainstorming sessions are not conducive to the best ideas. You will be able to do the best creative work on your own. Iyengar's book, titled 'Think Bigger', combines academic research, her own interviews, and a decade's worth of academic research into idea generation. The book concludes that brainstorming in groups is a waste. She believes that business teams should collaborate, but interprets this evidence as meaning that colleagues should share notes after independent, extensive thinking.

Many people have always been fascinated by the idea of a 'bigger world'


Readers of the Wall Street Journal may remember a 2006 article entitled 'Cubicle Culture.'


Harvard Business Review skewered popular practices

Published by:

A research-based argument against the usefulness and effectiveness of brainstorming. Most grumblers, however, have accepted these meetings as a necessary office reality.


You can also find out more about the following:

Bad coffee


Some companies and workers are saying enough. Drew Himel is the chief executive at Fireside, a firm that specializes in e-commerce strategies. He says he used to be a big proponent of brainstorming, but now he feels anxious if there's no agenda. His 16-person, fully remote team thrives when they can develop their ideas independently and share them in written form. The team still meets virtually to refine and discuss their ideas, but the meetings have been streamlined and are tangent free.

Some companies, such as Alphabet’s Google, encourage innovation by letting employees spend part of their time working on their own ideas that could benefit the company. Shopify and Wayfair are two examples.

Meeting times are being slashed

The hybrid age is a time of re-examination for the workplace. Microsoft research has shown that people spend an average of one hour on their smartphones.

entire workday in meetings

Every week (and an additional day of reading and sending email).

Some firms claim that screens are the problem and we will be more creative if we meet in person. The longer offices

Half empty

The more executives you have, the better off you will be

Face-to-face gatherings are a great way to meet people.

As fountains of Innovation

In a recent article, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said that people are excited to share new ideas and improvements on previous proposals. This leads to a group feeling energized, as well as a sense of being onto something.

You can also read more about it here.

Explain why the majority of employees will be required to report to a workplace at least three times a week starting this month.

A spokesperson for Amazon says that brainstorming sessions at the company are sometimes unstructured, but they often start with colleagues sharing memos based on well-researched information. This reduces the time spent on bad ideas. The research shows that unstructured brainstorming sessions are not always productive. They insist that breakthrough moments can be achieved and the process is worth it. They say that critics have unrealistic expectations. Lukas Kaiser, senior vp of content at Westbrook Media, Los Angeles, believes in the 70-30 rule: 70% of brainstorming ideas are stupid (his words), but that is a fair trade-off for 30% of good ideas. He also observed that the bad ideas tend to be the first to surface, so he recommends two-hour sessions to allow time for the better ones. He says that people need to be able to speak freely without fear of being judged, so they can move on to the next idea, which could end up as the best they have ever come up with.

Meg Amis is a Philadelphia-based marketing director who loves the

Huddling in a small space can be a very energizing experience.

Sticky notes can be slapped on the wall or written on a whiteboard. She argues that the process, regardless of whether or not everyone is involved, can create a positive atmosphere and help rally support for any project.

She says that if you want to get multiple people on board, a brainstorming session is the best way to begin. Everyone will feel like they are part of the process.