July 05, 2010
26 Reasons Why Most Brainstorming Sessions Are a Big Disappointment


Whenever I ask my clients to tell me about the quality of the brainstorming sessions in their company, they usually roll their eyes and grumble.

Simply put, most brainstorming sessions don't work.

Not because brainstorming, as a process, doesn't work -- but because they're usually done poorly.

What follows are 26 of the most common reasons WHY -- and after that, a list of what you can do to differently to turn things around. Ready?

1. Lame facilitation

2. Wrong (or poorly articulated) topic

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

11. The boss is in the room

Friustrated man steam out of ears.jpg

12. Habitual idea killing behavior

13. Attachment to pet ideas

14. Discomfort with ambiguity

15. Hyper-seriousness (not enough fun)

16. Endless interruptions

17. PDA addiction (Crackberries)

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

24. Meaningless speed. No time for reflection

25. Pre-mature evaluation

26. No real closure or next steps


1. Find, train (or hire) a skillful facilitator

2. Make sure you're focusing on the right challenge.

3. Invite people who care about the topic.

4. Invite people with diverse points of view.

5. Spend time clarifying the "current reality".

6. Start with a fun icebreaker to help change mindset.

7. Ask participants to establish clear meeting ground rules.

8. Design (or find) a more inspiring meeting space.

9. Establish alignment re: session goals.

10. Find ways to engage the least verbal participants.

11. Establish "deep listening" as a ground rule. Model it.

12. Invite participants to name classic idea killing statements.

13. Elicit the group's pet ideas in the first 30 minutes.

14. Explain how ambiguity is part of the ideation process.

15. Tell stories, play music, invite humor.

16. Go off site. Put a "meeting in progress" sign on the door.

17. Collect all PDAs/cell phones. Establish "no email" ground rule.

18. Go for a quantity of ideas. Let go of perfectionism.

19. Encourage individuality, risk taking, and wild ideas.

20. Ask people to leave their titles at the door.

21. Start with divergent thinking. End with convergent thinking.

22. Use tools and techniques to spark original thinking.

23. Enroll scribes, use post-its, have an idea capture process.

24. Create time for individuals to reflect on new ideas.

25. Explain that evaluation will happen at the end of the session.

26. Identify and enroll "champions". Explain the follow up process.

Our approach
Virtual brainstorm facilitation training

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 5, 2010 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

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
Authorized Reseller Logo – GoLeanSixSigma.com
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN