Thursday, November 17, 2005

Innovation Management and Brainstorming Management – why people hate to brainstorm!

Creativity can be defined as problem identification and idea generation whilst innovation can be defined as idea selection, development and commercialisation.

There are distinct processes that enhance problem identification and idea generation and, similarly, distinct processes that enhance idea selection, development and commercialisation.

Whilst there is no sure fire route to commercial success, these processes improve the probability that good ideas will be generated and selected and that investment in developing and commercialising those ideas will not be wasted.

One common method in the problem identification and idea generation phase is the use of brainstorming. In fact, it is not unfair to say that whenever managers have a problem to solve, they are likely to herd people into a room with a flip chart and conduct (usually an ineffective) brainstorming session.

There are a number of reasons why people hate brainstorming sessions. Further, there are a number of reasons why proper brainstorming management yields superior results.

a) Brainstorming dilutes ideas. Many individuals who think that they may be onto the something find that their ideas become diluted as a result of compromise.

b) The sum of ideas produced by individuals acting alone is greater than the sum of ideas produced by those individuals acting in groups. Thus proper brainstorming management includes asking participants to address the problem and generate ideas before the actual brainstorming session.

c) Large groups produce negatives such as groupthink, evaluation apprehension and status deference which causes people to shut down.

d) Idea generation is a cognitive process and relies on the team leader having the skills to elicit that cognitive activity from individuals. Often team leaders are assigned that role for other reasons.

e) Large groups are often dominated by higher status and more forceful personalities, thus lessening the impact of other participants. Often team leaders do not have the skills to manage all people.

These topics are covered in depth in the MBA dissertation on Managing Creativity & Innovation, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation DIY Audit, Good Idea Generator Software and Power Point Presentation) from

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Kal Bishop, MBA
Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on


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