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Brainstorming is B.S.

From Fast Company…

Lehrer goes on to point out that other studies have shown that the presence of criticism actually increases the flow of ideas. One experiment compared two groups: One which brainstormed with a mandate not to criticize, and another which had the license to debate each others ideas. The second group had 20% more ideas—and even after the session ended, the people in the second group had far more additional ideas than those in the first.

I can vouch for this. I’m working on a mobile learning app at work, and my team and I have been highly critical (in a respectful way) of each others work from day one. No idea is sacred, and eliminating the bad ones early has actually had two benefits:

  1. It’s allowed us to focus bringing a few great ideas to life rather than throwing a bunch at a wall and seeing what sticks.
  2. The process of criticizing has actually helped us create better ideas.

Here’s the secret: You can never just say, “I don’t like that idea.” It’s always, “I don’t think that idea will work because…” The “because” is the critical ingredient.

By identifying what’s bad about an idea, you have an opportunity to refine it early on in the ideation process. This let’s you dig deeper earlier, and pushes the creation process along rapidly.

After working like this, with a team that’s respectful but critical, I wouldn’t want to work any other way.

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Have any questions or comments about this post? Email me at or contact me on Twitter at @ChrisFerdinandi.

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