Corporate Brainstorming Is a Bad Idea for Creativity

Corporate Brainstorming

When your organization is stuck in a rut, does it turn to group brainstorming sessions? According to new research, pitching ideas in a group environment may not be the best course of action.

Researchers at Texas A&M have discovered that group brainstorming sessions can lead to fixation on only one idea or thought. Discussing ideas publicly can block out other ideas and possibilities and eventually lead to a conformity of thoughts. Lead researcher Nicholas Kohn explains, “Fixation to other people’s ideas can occur unconsciously and lead to you suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative.”

Research was conducted with groups of two, three, and four subjects. This study and other studies have also revealed that taking a break is important to the creative thinking process. Breaks can remove the natural decline in quantity and the variety of ideas, and encourage problem solving.

This study has shown that group creativity could be an overestimated approach to generating ideas. Individual brainstorming exercises, such as written activities, may be more effective. Participants of group brainstorming sessions should be aware of this fixation phenomenon if ideas are to be shared openly. All members should take active measures to prevent thought conformity. This will result in discussions that are more vibrant and fresh, with a wider range of possible solutions.

This story is adapted from a study scheduled for publication in the April issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.


  1. David Gash says

    Thanks for the comment Hazel. I agree. The researchers agree brainstorming works, just not as well when done as a group, which I completely agree with. I worked for a company that solved problems weekly as a group. Everyone focused on what the boss liked. Being the new guy I saw this as a ridiculous waste of my Thursday.

  2. says

    The warning in this article and that the researchers noted is appropriate when brainstorming is done without the creativity enhancements of power brainstorming®. The same old way that brainstorming is often done isn’t productive. Open up the process with power brainstorming® techniques and there will be a big difference. Blaming all brainstorming because some do it poorly is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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