The biggest problem is “production blocking” – i.e., the tendency of group members to take turns in sharing new ideas. This causes great ideas to be lost while people wait on a parade of mediocre ideas before it’s their turn again. Production blocking is closely connected to group size; it is a bigger problem for large groups than small ones.
Nijstad and Strobe offer several concrete recommendations for improving brainstorming sessions:
- Use electronic brainstorming (or brainwriting) instead of verbal brainstorming.
- If verbal brainstorming is unavoidable, keep the groups small. Break up larger groups.
- Encourage participants to pay attention to each other’s ideas.
- Stay on track. Don’t allow side conversations or lengthy exposition of ideas.
- Take frequent, short breaks.