In response to my last blog post on ideating, a good friend sent me a link to an article claiming that brainstorming doesn’t work. The article cites quite a few studies supposedly proving that working independently produces more (and higher quality) ideas than working in a group.
While not disputing the specific findings of these studies, I think articles like this miss the bigger picture of brainstorming. Coming up with ideas is only one part of the overall problem-solving process. Ideas need to be developed and ultimately implemented to realize any value.
In my 15 plus years of working with organizations to improve their problem-solving capabilities, we strive to combine the benefits of individual reflection (thinking time) with structured group interaction (talking time), instead of choosing a single approach.
A single individual, working on their own, is at a tremendous disadvantage when compared to a highly aligned and committed team in getting an idea all the way to implementation. Involving more people early on in the problem-solving process gives ideas the best chance of reaching their full potential.
If your sole objective is to come up with an idea that world has never seen before, it might be true that the best way to accomplish that is to sit in a room by yourself and think about it. However, if you want to effectively move an organization from Point A to Point B, we recommend filling the room with disparate points of view and brainstorming away.