Does Brainstorming Work?


First off, I love RSA's YouTube channel. If you want short, insightful content snacks, it's a great destination. Today on Tumblr I ran across a video narrated by Jonah Lehrer regarding brainstorming. He says, in the traditional sense that most of us regard brainstorming, it doesn't work. Listen for more:

I've been in the practice of not debating ideas too much in a brainstorm. The first idea that pops into most of our heads typically isn't a stroke of brilliance. A lot of great concepts I've seen come out of group brainstorms have started with what (left on its own) was a really odd and bad idea. However, bad ideas can be fleshed out into quality strategic thinking.

I think Lehrer is onto something different here. Some could interpret this as shooting down bad ideas. I don't believe he's suggesting that at all. The point he's making is centered around healthy debate. It's possible to question an idea without shooting down the person behind it. Healthy debate (unlike what we typically see on TV this time of year) fleshes out ideas and makes the idea creator defend why their idea may be a good one. If it isn't, how could it be improved to really work.

I'm a fan of playing devil's advocate in brainstorming sessions. I also believe there's a fine line between engaging in a healthy discussion and just being annoying or a jerk.

Would you agree with the video above? What do you find works best when formulating new ideas?

UPDATE: Research indicating rejection inspires more creative thinking.