Brainstorming is the grand daddy of business processes.  You know the drill.  State the problem.   Throw raw ideas out there.  Suspend judgment.  Build on other ideas.  It is a group creativity process designed in the 1950’s to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem.

Researchers who study brainstorming have discovered that the process can be improved significantly.  That is, we can generate more high quality ideas if we follow some newly discovered best practices.  For example, a recent article in the INFORMS journal Management Science entitled “Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea” reports that a “hybrid structure” produced 3 times as many ideas per unit of time compared to brainstorming, and the average quality of the ideas was significantly higher.

In a recent article in Strategy+Business titled “How Aha! Really Happens,” William Duggan, a professor at the Columbia Business School contends that brainstorming is predicated on an outdated model of how the brain works, i.e., left brain/right brain.  He believes that eventually we can expect more idea generating techniques based on the new science of intelligent memory. General Electric has been using these ideas since the 1990’s.

Innovation is about how we create and select new alternatives.  It is good to see a scientific approach being taken on the creativity side.  Decision coaches need to keep up with what is happening in this field.  Here at Baker Street we are looking forward to publishing a Decision Coach’s Guide to Idea Generation.   Who should write it?