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An alternative to brainstorming


How often have you come out of a brainstorming session wondering if the time was well spent?

I know I have, sometimes I was even leading the meeting at the time!


Brainstorming in itself isn't bad, I often brainstorm as I am putting together a new presentation or planning but when we do it within a group meeting, as Adam Grant points out, we risk losing more than we gain. This can happen for a few reasons, here are some to consider:

  • the loudest or most powerful voices get heard the most

  • people who are more introverted may find it difficult to share their ideas

  • people who need to mull things over may not get enough silence to think or time to talk

  • when we are tired or over it then the inclination can be to agree with others instead of doing our own thinking

  • people can sometimes agree with others to avoid rocking the boat

  • unless there is a high degree of psychological safety offering alternative suggestions that deviate from what others are saying might be too intimidating


Brainstorms, whilst intended to get more ideas from the group, can achieve the opposite and silence many leaving only a narrow range of ideas being generated.


We can mitigate this by using some different approaches to gathering people's ideas.


I use a lot of Ron Ritchhart's Thinking Routines as these are really handy for generating ideas and supporting critical thinking. (Click here for a link to Project Zero-Thinking Routines).


I also picked up Brainwriting from Adam Grant's book, Hidden Potential. Basically get people to write down their ideas before sharing them. There are a number of iterations of brainwriting that you can find with a quick search. The main thing is that people get to write on their own before any sharing, this can be synchronously or asynchronously, virtually or in the same space.


As you are planning your meetings it is worth considering not only the problems you will present but also how you will generate innovative and creative ideas.




Megan Gallagher, is a mum, teacher, coach, speaker, PLD facilitator and consultant. She weaves her teaching experience, intense interest and curiosity about the brain, and coaching skills together in all that she does.

She specialises in coaching for children, families and educators, and shares her expertise in wellbeing, curriculum design, and impactful teaching and learning as a speaker and facilitator.

One of her greatest pleasures in life is seeing others shining and this is the basis of the work she does with Ignite Your Spark.

For more information please check out meggallagher.nz. You can contact her at meg@meggallagher.nz

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Thanks for the reminder Meg - I read this in Adam Grant's book too and had forgotten - going to use this now!

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Thanks so much. There are so many gems in this book eh? Definitely one to read again :)

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