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Are Brainstorms Washing Away Success?

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, May 25, 2018

Are Brainstorms Washing Away Success?

Play nice. Share. Get along. There’s no “I” in “team.” Collaboration is key.

We’ve been coached since childhood to collect everyone’s opinions and ideas, believing it’s the single best way to find the best solution. Although it’s true that businesses use teamwork as the foundation of success, has our propensity to brainstorm inadvertently crippled business in some ways?

Renowned Wharton professor and leadership expert, Adam Grant, thinks so. He maintains that when people work so hard to develop consensus — essentially going along to get along — originality suffers, threats are overlooked, and disaster can remain undetected until it’s too late.

Instead, he recommends “brainwriting,” which begins with each individual developing a list of ideas on their own. Only after everyone has thought through the issue privately and committed positions to paper does the team meet to discuss and evaluate. Why is this more effective? “The wisdom of crowds mostly comes when you put people in separate rooms and get their judgment independently,” Grant explains.

It appears he’s not alone with his hypothesis. In his book, 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “Over 50 years of research shows that people often reach irrational decisions in groups … and highly biased assessments of the situation ... strong-willed people who lead group discussions can pressurize others into conforming, self-censorship and create an illusion of unanimity.”

While Forbes contributor Natalie Peace sides with Grant and Wiseman, she believes there are still opportunities for brainstorming, albeit in new ways. She recommends:

  • Provide strong leadership and a process framework to follow. People often want to have "no rules" brainstorming, but that can quickly derail or stall.

  • Give everyone time to think in advance of the session (essentially following Grant's "brainwriting" idea).

  • Make contribution mandatory. No sitting in the room just nodding. 

  • Any idea can be shot down, but must be replaced with an alternative.

How do you feel about brainstorming? Do you love it or hate it and why?

Tags:  agency value  AIMS Society  business value  efficiency  Goals  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  Networking  productivity  Professional Development  self-improvement  Social Media  teamwork 

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