It’s Time To Rethink How You Brainstorm, According To This Famous Leadership Expert


When you think of the word “brainstorming,” a lot of other positive words like “productivity” and “success” probably come to mind as well. We’d also bet that your version of brainstorming involves sitting in a room with your colleagues, having a set topic and just throwing out ideas to see what sticks. We feel this way, too. But esteemed professor and leadership expert Adam Grant believes that this brainstorming method is dead wrong. According to the thought leader, you may have been brainstorming the incorrect way your entire life. Yikes.

We are brainstorming fiends ourselves, so we have to admit that we were shocked by his statement. But when he explained his reasoning behind it, we actually thought we could warm up to the idea.

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In an interview with Amazon, Grant said that typically, companies will hold brainstorming sessions to gather ideas from different perspectives, but that concept actually could backfire.

“If you want to be creative, you need variety,” Grant said. “So they [companies] call the most innovative people they know, and they gather them for a brainstorming meeting. This turns out to be a terrible idea.”

Grant said that there are three issues with just gathering your coworkers to talk through ideas. First, you might have some introverts in your group who might not feel comfortable sharing their initial thoughts aloud. Second, anyone in the group might not feel that out-of-the-box ideas are welcome. Finally, Grant said that groups might just fall into “convergent thinking,” which means that everyone jumps on the bandwagon to agree with one idea to avoid rocking the boat.

His solution? Put everyone in a separate room or have them write out their ideas on paper, and then have them share collectively. His term to describe this type of brainstorming is “brainwriting” — individually creating an idea and coming together as a group to evaluate the idea. In an interview with Inc., Grant said, “The wisdom of crowds mostly comes when you put people in separate rooms and get their judgment independently.”

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Grant even took to Twitter to provide an easy tool to help organizations get started.

The free tool allows a team member to create a topic or a question, invite their colleagues to respond privately (and even anonymously) and then evaluate the answers at a meeting.

We’re big fans of brainstorming, so don’t think we’re giving up our communication strategy anytime soon. But we’re more than interested in this brainstorming method as an efficient, honest way to generate ideas in the workplace. Hey, maybe you should try it for your next meeting.