Brainstorming is a bad idea?

Looking at the quote on Marc Andreessen’s blog post Why brainstorming is a bad idea, I am forced to concede to the evidence presented, even though I am a big fan of group brainstorming. I wonder, though, if similar studies/experiments have been performed using what I refer to as “structured brainstorming”, meaning (to me) group brainstorming using tools/techniques/games designed to drive idea generation? I wonder if the results would differ?


I have been working in the world of technology for 25-odd years. I am an entrepreneur and consultant, focused on software solutions, social networking, and innovation processes. Currently, I am a Principal Consultant with T4G Limited, specializing in Portal Technologies (including SharePoint), software/systems development, service oriented architectures, and many other things which I will probably not remember until I need to use them. Prior to that, I was VP of Technology at Whitehill Technologies, Inc., where I spent almost 9 years helping to grow the company from a start-up to one of the most successful private software companies in Canada. Prior to that I worked on internet conferencing using early VoIP, and on large military communications projects. Before even that, I worked in satellite control, and remote sensing. Going way back to university, my focus was on theoretical physics and astrophysics. Currently my interests revolve around most aspects of software development, from technologies to management, and in the area of defining sustainable, repeatable processes for innovation within technology organizations. I also have a particular interest in Tablet PC technologies – I have been using one for several years, and I love it. On the personal side, I still have a strong interest in all aspects of science, especially physical sciences, as well as philosophy and comparative religion. In addition, I am into music, playing guitar (badly, I am sorry to say), and reading almost anything I can lay my hands on. I am also a member of the IEEE/IEEE Computer Society, and of the Association for Computing Machinery.

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7 comments on “Brainstorming is a bad idea?
  1. […] I love these articles – I blogged about this in response to articles a couple of times (here  and here) and the issue is always the same. They refer to brainstorming as “throwing a […]

  2. Tim Rueb says:

    I tend to think that the effectiveness of brainstorming has more to do with how well the facilitator is trained rather then who is in attendance. You don’t need to find the best subject mater people in the world for the meetings, You just need the current above average employees with some subject mater understanding to get the job done.

    I’ve facilitated enough meetings to see that when someone or thinks they have found the correct or perfect answer they move from idea-creation to idea-defense and begin the process of getting people to jump on board with their fabulous idea.

    In my post “Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never” I document a possible facilitation method that might help you out of that trap. Hope you enjoy.

    Good Hunting.

  3. […] I have read is One head is better than two or more. As Patricia pointed out in a comment to my previous post on this, The Medici Effect author also goes on to say: “So, should we all stop brainstorming? I […]

  4. Fred says:

    Cool – thanks for the link, Kim.

  5. yep, there’s been a research done on the brainstorming research that precisely note that, method and process are important – marc’s controversial headline made me blog about it this point, as I’ve been working with innovation and brainstorming actively –

  6. Fred says:


    I noticed that statment in the original article.

    I agree that brainstorming remains a useful process – and as you say, as with most human endeavours, without a strong, well-defined process, the results you acheive will be hit and miss, at best.


  7. Patricia says:

    Marc Andressen omits an important part of The Medici Effect – wherein the author states:

    “So, should we all stop brainstorming? I don’t think so. Done right, brainstorming is a highly effective way to actively generate intersectional ideas.”

    Unfortunately, Marc’s desire for a controversial quote led him to take Johannsen completely out of context.

    Generally, bad process leads to bad brainstorming, just as bad process leads to bad results in most meetings.


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Please keep in mind that any opinions, points-of-view, comments, or other content which I post to this site are mine and mine alone. They in no way reflect the views of my employer, my country, my dog, my cat, or anyone else you can think of. To paraphrase Monty Python, "That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is, too."

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