Brainstorming Series: Why You Should Never Brainstorm

When I say Brainstorming, people already have a concept of what I am talking about.  “Labels” allow us to quickly understand a new concept and make it immediately relevant. You’ve probably participated in many idea generation sessions you’d call “Brainstorming.”

The process for generating and developing ideas in Compression Planning is called “Churning” – like in the churning of “cream into butter.”  The concept is that you have to work an idea to get something useful out of it.

Some people, even after having going through our Training Institutes, revert back to calling it “Brainstorming” because, well, it feels like that is what it is.  Any time a group gets together and generates ideas, it’s typically called a Brainstorming session because, well, that’s what everyone else calls it.

Alex Osborn, the “Godfather of Brainstorming” described it as, “a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members”.

He came up with the following rules for conducting a Brainstorming session:

  • No criticism of ideas
  • Go for large quantities of ideas
  • Build on each others ideas
  • Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

Idea Churning

Jerry McNellis spent his first 10 years in business using “traditional Brainstorming” in the ideation parts of his sessions.  He was never satisfied with the results though.

He found two things wrong with Brainstorming:

  1. He would get a giant list of ideas and then have to spend time trying to figure out what a bunch of “one-word” cards meant.  It was time consuming and he found the ideas needed further development.
  2. Not all sessions fit the “rules of Brainstorming.”  Wild and exaggerated ideas were good and okay for some sessions, but certainly not ALL sessions.

He started playing around with the idea of spending more time on individual ideas – building them into more of an actionable concept. This was the birth of “Idea Churning.”

In the next blog I’ll further explore the Compression Planning approach to Brainstorming.


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