- Today, the purpose of brainstorming remains the same as it did when Alex Osborn penned it. Bring a group of people together to generate ideas around a particular problem. On the surface, the concept certainly passes the logic test. If one person can generate five ideas, then two should generate 10. But it never seems to work that way, does it? There are a number of factors that contribute to an effective brainstorming process, the least of which is remembering that it is a process, one that we continually shorten and cheapen, as time or circumstances lead us to combine parts of the process, or worse, throw them out altogether.
But know this, if you'll commit to the process, it will yield more and better ideas than you could have generated alone. We have all experienced times when we feel that the ideas we generate on our own are better than the ones generated in a group setting. Both methods have their merits, for sure. When we ideate individually, we're in control of the entire process, so the quality of that session is never in question, but in a group setting, the structure of the process becomes vital. That's why it's so important to have a plan for your brainstorm and be able to truly facilitate, rather than just putting people in a room and hoping for the magic to happen.
If you know the goal of the brainstorm and plan for it, group ideation is extremely effective. The goal of a brainstorm is not to solve a problem. It's to provide possibilities. Solving the problem will come after you move from the divergent exercise of ideation to the convergent exercise of idea selection. Divergent thinking is the act of generating multiple options and ideas. Convergent thinking is generating or filtering to a single solution.
Your sole purpose of a brainstorm should be to generate options, even ones that aren't fully formed. If you first recognize that this is a process, with definable and necessary steps to be effective, and that its purpose is to provide possibility, rather than solutions, you'll be well on your way to more effective brainstorming sessions.