All of us know how to brainstorm, or so we think. For most of us, the experience of brainstorming involves sitting in a room and tossing out ideas on a whiteboard or series of Post-it notes. Sure we don’t judge, but we also rarely talk about the ideas in the moment. According to renowned creativity expert Keith Sawyer, we might not be brainstorming properly:
“A lot of people view brainstorming in an additive way—we’re adding to the number of ideas,” Sawyer explains. “But that’s not the power of the group. The group’s power comes from the synergy that goes beyond the additive. What the most creative companies do is tell the members of the group to come up with lists of ideas before they come to the brainstorming session. What the group is really powerful for is exchanging ideas and then having ideas bump up against one another and merge in surprising new ways that any one person might not have thought of on their own.”
If you’re brainstorming just to develop lists of ideas, you’re probably doing it wrong. Instead, make sure ideas are given time to combine and transform. This not only adds to the number of ideas, but also brings the total quality up drastically.
This article was originally published on 99u.com.
David Burkus is assistant professor of management at the College of Business at Oral Roberts University, where he teaches courses on creativity, entrepreneurship, and organizational behavior. He is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas.