Brainstorming sessions, thought by many to be the bane of corporate existence, actually do work, new research shows. But, the researchers said, you have to do it right.
While brainstorming can actually be useful in real-world business environments, the process can be short-circuited if team leaders come into brainstorming sessions with preconceived notions.
The study pinpointed 21 specific best practices that contribute to successful brainstorming efforts. They are divided into three broad categories:
- Attendance at sessions and communications;
- Brainstorming structure and timing; and
- Team effort.
Some of the best practices include: Including subject-matter experts in sessions, being open to input from all members, doing your homework by becoming familiar with issues before brainstorming meetings, holding more than one session, and, if you’re a leader, setting the right tone.
“Don’t broadcast your preconceived notions,” the researchers advised.
The benefits of high-quality brainstorming kick in when at least 10 or 11 of those practices are put into place.
Though the study was conducted by looking at how accounting firm audit teams used brainstorming as part of their fraud detection process, the study’s authors said that the findings are broadly applicable throughout the business world.
“You can take each of the best practices and apply them elsewhere,” said Joe Brazel, associate professor of accounting at North Carolina State and a co-author of a paper. “When facing a complex problem in any field of business, this research tells us that it is important to incorporate high-quality brainstorming techniques in order to improve your ability to successfully resolve the problem.”
But you have to understand the rules of the road and the dynamics of brainstorming.
“Brainstorming isn’t simply going into a room and talking,” Brazel told BusinessNewsDaily. “The first thing you do is become acquainted with the brainstorming literature.”
It turns out that using best practices is more important than the specific brainstorming technique you use. The study found that there was no variation in results from different brainstorming approaches. It was the use of best practices that made the difference in outcomes.
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Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @nedbsmith.