Jeffrey Baumgartner is not the sort of guy who settles for the status quo. He has spent the last few decades helping companies come up with new ideas. However, frustrated with the lack of end-product coming out of most brainstorming sessions, he developed a new way to approach the problem: Anti-Conventional Thinking.
In my recent interview with him, we talk about the research behind why brainstorming is so ineffective, and how companies can use Anti-Conventional Thinking.
‘Brainstorming’ was developed as a concept in the 1930s by Alex Osborn, one of the founders of advertising agency BBDO, to get as many ideas as possible from a group. It was based on the following ‘rules’ to encourage ideation as a large group, some of which have since been disproven by scientific studies:
- Welcome unusual ideas: No problem with this
- Combine and improve ideas: This is fine as well
- Withhold criticism: UC Berkeley (2008) showed that when a brainstorming group was allowed to discuss and criticise the group’s ideas, the total number of ideas was higher than a group where criticism was not allowed, and ideas were judged to be of a higher quality.
- Focus on quantity: Studies at Yale (1958) and Dr Byron (2013) have shown that when the same number of individuals are asked to come up with ideas individually, they will produce up to 2x as many as a brainstorming group
Where Anti-Conventional Thinking is fundamentally different is that instead of trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, it’s more important to determine a big, sexy goal and work towards developing a single actionable idea by the end of the session. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be multiple ideas discussed throughout the session, instead the focus is on having everyone know what the next steps are once the session is complete.
This is what increases the likelihood that the idea will actually be turned into an innovation.
Jeffrey has also been so kind as to summarise the entire A.C.T. into a 1-page cheat sheet which you can use to kickstart the process in your own company.
He has made it available to readers of Idea to Value if you click the button below:
How successful have brainstorming sessions been in your company? Do you think it is better to get a single idea or hundreds of ideas out of them? Let us know in the comments below (we read all comments).