woman with post-it in brainstorming session

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The obstacles to brainstorming and how to overcome them  

December 20, 2018

Practitioners' Guide

When it comes to producing new ideas, brainstorming has traditionally been one of the most popular methods of getting the creative juices flowing within organisations. While the process itself has several benefits, brainstorming comes up against a number of barriers that often limit its potential. Here’s how to overcome them:


Obstacle: Fear of judgement

Studies show that people in groups tend to censor themselves for fear of negative criticism from their peers. This means that, often, the most creative ideas are never shared, particularly if those with a more senior position are present.

Solution: Share bad ideas first

To loosen people and ensure everyone is comfortable sharing all their ideas – however ridiculous they seem –, ask the group to come up with the bad ideas first. Not only does it set a more playful tone, but a “bad” idea could also be a spark and lead to a better one further on.


Obstacle: Uninspiring environment

Cubicle offices, closed and unequal spaces – particularly where there is a sense of hierarchy – or rooms associated to team meetings are unlikely to make people feel comfortable to share their thoughts freely and therefore limit creativity.

Solution: Create a brainstorming area

Brainstorming spaces should have exactly that: space. Open, non-threatening environments (ideally well-lit and free from distractions) are more conducive to freedom of expression. Simply changing the physical environment also influences the way the brain works, which could affect the ideas that the group comes up with.


Obstacle: Unclear objectives

Often people go into a brainstorming session without a clear idea of the goal in mind, which leads to vague ideas, lack of direction and an ineffective brainstorming session overall.

Solution: Set out the goals beforehand

Before going into any brainstorming session, leaders should first define a problem statement – known as a Point of View – which defines the issue at hand and the specific goals of a possible solution. Brainstorming is more productive when there is more detail and objectivity.


More insights can be found in our Advanced Learning section, or visit our Practitioners’ Guide for a step-by-step of innovation and creativity processes.

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