January 31, 2012
25 Reasons Why Brainstorming Sessions Fail


Whenever I ask my clients to tell me about the quality of their company's brainstorming sessions, they usually roll their eyes and grumble. What follows is a sampling of the stuff I keep hearing over and over again – various reasons why brainstorming sessions often get a bad rap in most organizations.

As you read through the list, note the ones that are most common in your company. Then get together, this week, with some of your colleagues and see what you can do to change the game.

1. Lame facilitation
2. Wrong (or poorly articulated) problem statement
3. Unmotivated participants
4. No transition from "business as usual"
5. Insufficient diversity of participants

6. Addiction to the status quo
7. Lack of clear ground rules
8. Sterile meeting space
9. Hidden (or competing) agendas
10. Lack of robust participation

Meeting boredom.jpg

11. The extroverts take over
12. Habitual idea killing behavior
13. Attachment to pet ideas
14. Discomfort with ambiguity
15. Hyper-seriousness (not enough fun)

16. Endless interruptions
17. People come late and leave early
18. Premature adoption of the first "right idea"
19. Group think
20. Hierarchy, turfs, and competing sub-groups

21. Imbalance of divergent and convergent thinking
22. No tools or techniques to spark creativity
23. Inadequate idea capture methods
24. Pre-mature evaluation
25. No real closure or next steps

Who can you meet with, this week, to explore new and better ways of inmproving the quality of your company's brainstorming sessions?

One way to turn things around

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at January 31, 2012 07:45 AM


Found a few gems here that I hadn't seen before. Thanks Mitch! I'll take the humor suggestions to heart!

Posted by: Mark Dykeman [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 9, 2010 01:49 PM

Good list. Like point 17. Our list (with considerable overlap) here: http://is.gd/ZdgzJU

Posted by: Brian SJones [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 18, 2011 05:05 PM

stop calling those worthless, unplanned, poorly run meetings....


learn what Alex Osborn and the many people that learned from him have learned about how to truly use his creative thinking tool/process that he named:


when you are holding meetings and need to generate many ideas with a group of people or by yourself.

You might as well write blog messages titled:

26 Reasons Christianity Does Not Work?
26 Reasons Why Peace Does Not Work?
26 Reasons Why.....

Posted by: Alan Black [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 31, 2012 08:11 AM

It isn't BRAINSTORMING that isn't working.

It is the unwilling, untrained, unfocused, unable to work with others effectively, poor leadership, miserable managers, lazy, selfish and hundreds of other factors, people calling what they are doing


when they do not know what Alex Osborn's creative thinking tool/technique/process, he called Brainstorming is and can be.

Posted by: Alan Black [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 31, 2012 08:14 AM

Alan: Thanks for your passionate feedback. I am calling these meeting "brainstorming sessions" because that is what my clients are calling them. You are absolutely correct in noting that people aren't honoring the guidelines set forth by Alex Osborne. In my experience, most corporate brainstorming sessions are anything but. That's why I wrote this piece. I subscribe to Fritz Perls' "Awareness cures" school of thought. That's why I wrote the list of 26 obstacles. Sometimes, simply by noting the common obstacles to good brainstorming, people will be served and more conscious of what they can do to improve their sessions. Are people "unwilling, untrained, unfocused, and unable?" Sometimes. Not all the time. That's a whole other blog post. Untrained? Yes. Unfocused? All too often. Unwilling? Sometimes. Unable? No.

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 31, 2012 11:07 AM

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