5 Reasons Brainstorming Sessions Fail

Brainstorming sessions are a powerful tool for organizations to move forward. However, many times they fail to generate ideas and even worse it frustrates participants. The following are the primary reasons brainstorming session fail and what you can do to prevent it!

No Wrong Answer

The goal of brainstorming is to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Without a session goal, or North Star, there will be no wrong answer. Several times I conducted sessions without a defined North Star or an overarching objective. The team generated many ideas; however, there was no way to assess which ideas were better because there was no objective to filter and build out ideas. In both cases, I ended the sessions until management agreed on an objective.

A North Star is mandatory. If it is measurable, it is even better. For example, there is a difference between improving employee satisfaction by ten percentage points based on an annual survey and just improving employee satisfaction without a goal. With the measurable North Star, you can assess ideas by asking; “How much will this increase employee satisfaction?” Answering this question will help filter ideas to build out.

Running with Scissors

In a rush to brainstorm, typically a team member is anointed to lead the session. Rarely is this person trained to lead a session and take the team’s brainstorming to the next level. Along with a measurable objective or North Star, a brainstorming lead will have the most impact on the success or failure of a session.

A brainstorming lead or Idea Architect as we like to call them, has four responsibilities to take ideas to the next level:

  • Create: Create stimulus to use in the session to get people to think different.
  • Choreograph: Choreograph the meeting to keep everyone engaged.
  • Contribute: Contribute your ideas and build off other’s ideas.
  • Cultivate: Cultivate and challenge ideas with the team to take ideas to the next level.

With the right training you (and your team) will gain the confidence to lead a session. For more information check out the Da Vinci Masterclass.

Stuck in a Box

Expecting people to automatically think “out of the box” is wishful thinking. We all live in an intellectual comfort zone which prevents us thinking convergently about a problem to generate innovative ideas.

It is paramount to challenge our preset through processes. This begins with stimulus to kick off the session and continue throughout the session using methods to prompt participants to look at the objective from different vantage points. The Da Vinci Approach methods are designed to not only inspire your team, but to shake up their thought processes too.

Diversification of Thought

A common brainstorming trap is to gather your daily team and just brainstorm. While convenient, not including people outside of your team will limit diversification of thought. There is a high probability that your session will suffer from group think.

Diversifying thought encompasses the inclusion of people from different departments, work experiences, generations, or cultures who understand or can impact the North Star. This tactic will amplify convergent thinking, because of the different perspectives in the room.

Ideas Live or Die on a Sticky Note

Brainstorming is a two-step process. The first is to generate as many ideas as possible. But there is another step most teams do not take: select the best ideas relative to their North Star and build them out.

Building out ideas goes beyond what is scribbled on a sticky note or a flip chart. It is taking a promising idea and adding dimension to it. Thinking about how to increase the value of the ideas by triaging different layers to an experience or features for a product. Scaling the idea based on logistics like time and budget to ensure the idea will be activated.