Brainstorming is a popular group method of finding ideas. The process involves a group working together and stating ideas, arguing the merits of those ideas, supplementing those ideas or rejecting those ideas. Brainstorming is often seen in the workplace, when a work group meets to consider and create multiple ideas. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this model of group problem-solving.
When It Is Appropriate to Brainstorm
The University of Vermont Extension School argues that brainstorming is best used in a group situation to solve a problem. Brainstorming can be applied to solve the goal of the group, such as figuring out what to do for an event, a business project or plan. Brainstorming can also be used to write out a schedule of what needs to be done when and who will perform those actions. However, a disadvantage to this strategy is that brainstorming can easily be over-applied. For example, you could have a situation where a group brainstorms about what the group will brainstorm at its next meeting.
Brainstorming only works when everyone in the room has something to say or can logically construct a good argument or claim. In brainstorming, the creativity of each individual is welcomed so that a possible solution or solutions can be drafted to solve a problem. However, you need the right type of people in the brainstorming process. People who lack imagination or people who are shy and quiet will not contribute much, if anything, to the creative process. This hindrance in the brainstorming process can harm the entire group dynamic. Team members who have displayed creativity in their work are more likely to succeed in a brainstorming session.
A benefit of brainstorming is that all people are equals in the creative process. The group sits down and decides to brainstorm ideas for their specific business project. However, without strict control or a leader present in the brainstorming session, the group may take a long time to reach a consensus. The inherent democratic nature of brainstorming sessions means everyone has a chance to speak, but everyone also has a chance to object. Compromising and combining ideas is a virtue in brainstorming sessions, and if workers do not possess these virtues, constant arguing will lead the brainstorming session nowhere.
To maintain a good balance in the brainstorming session, a group must be relatively small. A University of New Mexico teaching methodology program at the Health Science Center argues that brainstorming tends to not work as effectively with larger groups. Large groups allow some people, especially introverts, to not contribute to the brainstorming, and instead recede into the crowd. Also, with more people involved, there is a higher likelihood of group think. Group think occurs when people tend to gravitate toward an idea because it seems popular. Group think can stifle creativity and unpopular, but necessary, ideas in a brainstorming session.