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Thought Starter: Why Brainstorming doesn't lead to Innovation

12 June 2015 By Bill Jarrard - Imagineer


Not long ago some of my colleagues and I were discussing if we had ever seen an innovation come out of a brainstorming session. The answer was a unanimous NO!

But that isn’t surprising - brainstorming wasn’t designed to develop innovations. Its purpose is to generate ideas – ideas that are useful, sometimes provocative, but always on focus. Ideas - not solutions.

Solutions and innovation take much more. Unfortunately, many people believe brainstorming is all that is needed, and facilitators like me from the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) have been doing our best to show just how false this is – for 60 years!  

Alex Osborn, inventor of brainstorming, and Sid Parnes started CPSI in 1955. The Osborn-Parnes divergent-convergent Creative Problem Solving process is the foundation for the Deliberate Creative Thinking methods I use in my facilitation and creative leadership workshops around the world.

In a five-stage simplified divergent-convergent approach, you can:
1. Define the Challenge
2. Explore the Situation
3. Generate Ideas
4. Design Potential Solutions
5. Implement or Move to the Next Step

And in each stage this opens up possibilities, then converges on those which are most useful; resulting in a superior outcome and significantly faster collaborative teamwork.

The methodology is strengthened with critical thinking tools to promote effective and creative divergent and convergent thinking in team activities. And just one of those tools is Brainstorming.

If you want to move beyond traditional rational problem solving, you need to adopt the divergent-convergent process and creative thinking tools embodied in Applied Creativity and Innovation.

Have you ever held a ‘brainstorming’ session to look for a solution, and been disappointed?

Join the conversation at @Leadvic

As Leadership Victoria’s resident Imagineer, Bill Jarrard (WCLP '90) helps people and organisations Imagine the future they wish to achieve and then Engineer it into reality. Bill focuses on people and organisational development, with a particular passion for continuous improvement, creative thinking, and applied innovation.

Bill designs and delivers our Leading Innnovation series, including Thinking Strategically to Lead Innovation
on 14 July. Early-bird registration (save $200) open now until 16 June.