5 reasons brainstorms are a waste of your time and money.

I have an idea. Let’s not do brainstorms anymore. Most organizations believe brainstorm sessions are a great way to generate a lot of ideas quickly. While you may feel like you see a lot of new thinking in these sessions, you don’t see what you don’t see. As a professional creative thinker, I consider the brainstorm session a highly visible, but highly inefficient way to develop new ideas. I thought about hosting a telethon to raise awareness of this problem. But I didn’t know where to find ten landline telephones. So this post will have to do.

Dissecting the Brainstorm Problem

One of the reasons brainstorms are so popular is that in a one hour session you can generate a visible collection of new ideas. But the pile of ideas you leave the meeting with is misleading. Because brainstorm sessions are like gathering 100 horses and only generating 50 horsepower. You would be better off letting those ponies run alone.

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 5 Problems With Brainstorms

1. Brainstorming is made for extroverts.

Brainstorming is a game where you rapidly blurt out half-baked ideas in front of a small crowd. For extroverts this is good sport. But to the other 50% of the planet this is an uncomfortable and unnatural activity. The quieter half of the population thinks more than they speak. They generate a lot of ideas on their own. Which means that the brainstorm is simply not their natural habitat for idea generation.

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2. The 80/20 Rule

In line with the core tenants of the 80/20 rule, 80% of the good ideas in a typical brainstorm come from 20% of the people. Brainstorms give the false impression that everyone is birthing ideas. But this is not the reality. If you conducted a brainstorm in a petri dish, and observed it under a microscope, you would see a small population of valuable idea generators, a larger collection of evaluators, and a smattering of cheerleaders and spectators. Of course, they would all be wondering why you were staring at them through a giant microscope.

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3. The Brainstorm Bottleneck.  

In a polite and orderly brainstorm session you have one person speak at a time. This is also a necessity when you have one scribe capturing the ideas and mounting them on a giant flip pad. The flip side of that orderliness is that when one person is talking, no one else is contributing ideas. There is simply not enough air time for all the ideas that should be generated by just three productive thinkers over the course of an hour.

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4. Invisible Clay Pigeons:

There are not supposed to be any bad ideas in a brainstorm. Participants are not supposed to evaluate or criticize ideas. But there are a whole flock of less-obvious ideas that never get tossed to the group because the thrower is afraid their idea will get shot down in the minds of the other participants. Even if the group adheres to the rules of brainstorming during the session, participants will still feel judged by the group, in silence.

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5. Great Brains Storm On Their Own

Great ideators generate ideas at a faster pace, with greater range and push more boundaries when working alone. A good thinker will quickly gather the low hanging fruit. Then they get to work on the rest of the tree. Then other trees. Then other orchards.  Then they harvest fruit on other continents. And finally, on other planets. You are far less likely to get a bushel basket full of Uranus Apples in a traditional brainstorm.

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The Solution

To generate the most, best and broadest range of ideas, people should always think alone first. Give your team members a quiet place, a pen and a pad of paper. The ideas will flow and fill the pages. Only after the team has thought on their own should you bring them together to share their sparkly new brain gems. During The Thinkers Reunion, you experience the Reece’s moment, when people can get their chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter. The mash-ups, surprise combinations, epiphanies and amplified ideas at this stage are far more valuable.

Key Takeaway

Stop wasting time and money on brainstorm sessions. They are not the Holy Grail of idea generation they are thought to be. Work in isolation. Then pour all the ideas together. You’ll get more and better ideas every time. If you have other idea-generating ideas  you’ve thought of on your own, please share them in the comments section.

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The most common phrase you should never say.

At the Perfect Agency Project we have a fairly obvious goal. In case you’re not great at reading comprehension, the goal is to create the perfect agency. And at the perfect agency people collaborate and are nice to each other.  Which means they don’t do or say jerkilicious things.

That’s why we are banning a very common phrase you probably hear or say all the time. Ready for it? Still ready?  Further ado. Even further ado  Okay, here it is:

I don’t disagree.

Please stop saying this.  This is one of the jerkiest statements we can make to each other.  It paints your reaction in a negative light. Both don’t and disagree are negative words.  Which makes it a double negative.

As most of you don’t not know, the double negative actually makes a positive. So this statement actually says, I agree.  But it states it in the most negative, reluctant, non-affirming way possible.

Instead let us say things like I agree. Or You’re right.  Let us support each other. Let us acknowledge our alignments positively. And most importantly, let us eat more lettuce. Now if you agree with me, please respond to this post by saying, completely don’t disagree with you. It won’t make me not laugh. But it will let me know who read all the way to the end.

I Owe My Career To The Vanilla Ice Philosophy

I have a philosophy about philosophies.  It’s that everyone should have one. I believe we all need something to ground our actions, beliefs and decisions. It is our philosophies that create the bedrock of our character and our personal brands.

I also have a philosophy about the work I do as a professional creative. It encompasses why I believe advertising and marketing exist. And I stole it from Vanilla Ice. Yes, I am an evangelist of the Vanilla Ice Philosophy. What? You’ve never heard of it?  Right now consultants at Deloitte, Accenture and McKinsey are looking at each other asking, “Do you know what hell he’s talking about?” (And I know you guys read this. #analytics!)

Allow me to explain. The Vanilla Ice Philosophy was first introduced 25 years ago in Mr. Ice’s hit song, Ice Ice Baby. The philosophy emphatically states, “If there was a problem, Yo! I’ll solve it!”

It’s that simple. And it reminds me that there is only one reason agencies exist: To solve our clients’ problems. Fortunately for us, our clients always have problems (some more than others).  Sometimes they are really difficult challenges. Sometimes they are good problems to have.  But they are always there.  And solving them puts food on our tables.

I also love the attitude of this philosophy. You know, the “Yo! I’ll solve it!” part.  Because like an athlete who wants the ball, puck or frisbee when the team needs a big play, I always believe I can find a solution. So throw me the problem! Business is now my competitive sport. And I build teams full of people with the same competitive mindset.

Clients constantly warn us of big challenges or tight deadlines that make their problem difficult to solve. But our team never flinches. We’ve seen too much and overcome too many challenges. In short, we are hard to scare.

So what makes the perfect agency good at solving problems?  Again, we turn to Vanilla Ice. He doles out important instructions in the opening line of Ice Ice Baby. Because he knew in his infinite icy wisdom that the key to solving problems is to collaborate and to listen.

Collaborating means we work together. Our agency huddles together to put the best minds to work as one. We also collaborate extremely well with our clients. By representing all perspectives in the solutions we know we come up with better options than we ever could alone.

Listening means we hear the real problem to be solved. We listen for understanding. We listen for insights. We listen to hear the key problem we are trying to solve. In corporate America too much time is wasted by not hearing, identifying or responding to the real problem.

So thank you Robert Van Winkle. Over the past 25 years you’ve made great music. You’ve made us dance. And you have penned some solid philosophy that I follow every day. Word to your mother.