“Do you run a brainstorming session to get answers when you are stuck with a problem?” a consultant asked me.

“Well, that depends on how much time I have,” I replied.

“Seems like you don’t know the benefits of brainstorming,” he added.

While I am aware of brainstorming, I can’t say that I am aware of the benefits I can get. I decided to talk to some experts on this.

Read on to find out what I discovered.

The science of brainstorming

The science of brainstorming is based on an understanding of how the brain operates. As you are aware, the brain is divided into two halves, the left and right hemispheres. The left hemisphere is in charge of logical thinking and linear problem-solving, whereas the right hemisphere is more creative. Brainstorming works by simultaneously engaging both hemispheres, allowing the group to generate unique and innovative ideas.

Brainstorming also employs a concept known as “lateral thinking” (Mustofa, et al.). This entails approaching a topic from a new perspective and devising new solutions. This kind of thinking pushes the group to come up with novel solutions rather than depending on existing ones. By approaching problems from several perspectives, the group can generate more ideas and better solutions.

Furthermore, brainstorming works by fostering a collaborative setting. The group can generate more ideas than if they worked alone by creating a setting where ideas can be openly exchanged. This form of teamwork promotes alternative thinking and the free exchange of ideas.

What are the benefits of brainstorming?

There are many benefits to running a brainstorming session.

Increase creativity

Businesses can profit greatly from brainstorming sessions. Increased creativity is one of the most essential advantages of brainstorming. Brainstorming has been proven in studies to assist enhance creativity and generate more and better ideas. The group can generate more and better ideas than if they worked alone by engaging the brain in creative problem-solving. This can assist firms in developing innovative solutions to challenges, developing new products or services, and increasing their competitive edge.

Improve problem-solving skills

Brainstorming also aids in the development of problem-solving abilities. Brainstorming has been found in studies to increase problem-solving skills by engaging the brain in creative thinking (Sousa). The group can come up with new ways of looking at challenges and finding answers by approaching them from diverse perspectives. This can assist firms in finding effective answers to problems and making smarter judgments.

Enhance collaboration

Brainstorming can improve collaboration. According to research, brainstorming can help to increase collaboration among team members and generate more ideas. By creating a setting where ideas can be openly discussed, the group can generate more ideas than if they worked alone (Amabile, et al.). This can assist firms in cultivating a culture of collaboration and creativity, resulting in greater results.

Generate more and better ideas

Author Tony Buzan often referred to the idea of brainstorming without editing, and whether a brainstorming session gives you more and better ideas. While these concepts are extremely relevant to the creative process, there has been little experimental work in this area.

However, there is one impressive study conducted by Johnson, Parrott and Stratton (Johnson, et al.).

In this study, two groups of people were instructed to generate titles for a plot. Group 1 was instructed to generate one best plot title while Group 2 was instructed to generate many plot titles with no regard for the quality of the titles. Two other people judged the quality of the titles for both groups. The results showed, as expected, that Group 2 generated more titles overall. and unexpectedly, they also generated more titles of higher quality than Group 1.

Here are two other interesting findings:

1. When the group was instructed to focus on quantity rather than quality, more titles of higher quality were generated than when the group was instructed to focus on quality rather than quantity. The results showed that as the quantity of titles rose, the quality of titles also rose.

2. There was almost no difference between the groups when members in each group were told to judge which of their titles was better. Both groups felt that their titles were of high quality. This shows that the members in Group 1, who were directed to create one best title, may have brainstormed internally and then edited the titles before writing down the best one (Anderson).

The above study suggests that both brainstorming and editing are important in generating quality solutions to problems. This supports Buzan’s suggestion of unedited brainstorming and saving the editing process for later.

What makes a good brainstorming session?

Here’s what you need to do to get the most out of a brainstorming session:

Set Goals: When planning a brainstorming session, it is important to set specific goals for the session. By having a specific and measurable goal, the meeting can stay focused on the task at hand and brainstorm more and better ideas.

Encourage participation: A brainstorming session encourages participation. Everyone will feel more comfortable sharing their views and the group can generate more ideas.

Create an atmosphere of respect and trust: Foster an environment in which everyone feels comfortable discussing their ideas without fear of criticism and judgment.

Use the right tools: Appropriate tools and resources must be provided so that the group can generate more and better ideas. One good tool for encouraging participation and the sharing of ideas is to use mind maps.

Avoid groupthink: Groupthink happens when a group is more focused on just reaching an agreement rather than thinking creatively to reach a solution. By avoiding groupthink, the group can generate more and better ideas if they can do more alternative thinking.

Manage time: Setting time limits and getting the group to stay on topic will allow it to generate more and better ideas instead of wasting time on unimportant discussions.

Manage expectations: Setting reasonable expectations for the brainstorming session will allow the group to focus on creating ideas without feeling pressured to produce a certain result.

Conclusion

The science of brainstorming is both sophisticated and multifaceted. You have to understand the science behind brainstorming to be able to use it to its fullest potential.

Brainstorming provides many benefits including increased creativity, improved problem-solving, and improved collaboration. However, you should be aware of the difficulties associated with brainstorming, such as overcoming groupthink and managing expectations.

You can enhance your brainstorming session by following the tips above. Your team will be able to generate more and better ideas and discover new solutions to issues as they foster an atmosphere of collaboration and creativity through brainstorming.


References

  • Amabile, T. M. & Kramer, S. J. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Harvard Business Press, 2008.
  • Anderson, J. R. Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1985.
  • Buzan, T. The Mind Map Book, Pearson Education, 2006.
  • Hurt, F. “Better Brainstorming.” Training & Development, vol. 48, no. 11, pp. 57, 1994.
  • Johnson, D. M., Parrott, G. L., & Stratton, R. P. “Production and Judgment of Solutions to Five Problems.” Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 59, no. 6, pp. 1-21, 1968. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1969-02014-001
  • Kaufman, J. C. & Beghetto, R. A. “In Praise of Brainstorming.” Review of General Psychology, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 120-134, 2013.
  • Mullen, B., Johnson, C. & Salas, E. “Productivity Loss in Brainstorming Groups: A Meta-Analytic Integration.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 3-23, 1991.
  • Mustofa, R. F. & Hidayah, Y. R. “The Effect of Problem-Based Learning on Lateral Thinking Skills.” International Journal of Instruction, vol. 13, no.1, pp. 463-474, Jan 2020.
  • Sousa, D. “How to Use Brainstorming to Generate Creative Ideas.” Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2012/05/how-to-use-brainstorming-to-gen