Rigor in brainstorming as a pause in the process of creating the new

By | October 30, 2012

Conventional wisdom states that the best brainstorming sessions are the extremely rapid fire ones where ideas are flying out like arrows and much energy is expended. In actual fact, you need a little bit of deliberation before you can make a concept tangible. And a little more before you invest in fixed costs before getting it to market.

Where and how does this apply?

Since brainstorming is a part of the user centered design process, it really should not be left out of the strategic planning process. In actual fact, it very often is – when timelines are created by earnest young project managers, trained in the latest business school frameworks, they follow the planning phases taught in classes like Marketing 101 or Intro to strategy.

None of these processes, from what I recall of my business school days have an explicit step in their various processes for brainstorming or ideation. It is implicit, that if a marketing department of a large global multinational, goes away on a fancy offsite to come up with the next three year markeitng plan for the country, they will get together in teams and brainstorm on strategies for the plan.

But they don’t, not really, it’s a few hurried minutes, usually with some amount of guilt or embarressment in indulging themselves in the pleasure of free flowing thoughts and ideas instead of doing ‘real work’.

That’s something every designers knows, on a deep and fundamental level, that you need to set the time aside to brainstorm, that the energy is the key to a good end result, not necessarily the specific ideas in and of themselves.

It seems like a very organic process, and it brings the whole team together, prepared then to go their own ways for their specific parts of the project, after all having more or less understood the collective vision.

If conducted with the rigor that it is among particularly strategic human centered design firms among regular finance, sales, marketing or engineering meetings, in a company, before it begins the new product development process or new market strategy, think of the difference it would make to the global end result?

 There is a fundamental difference between a ‘launch’ or a kickoff where the senior management presents to the team the concept and it’s implementation (i.e. the corporate strategy or vision) and one where the team is creating the brand together.

And this “paused brainstorming” can be applied by any group of stakeholders getting together to implement a large scale project or programme with common goals and outcomes.

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