Back to blog

Brainstorming Best Practices

This post highlights some of the research and best practices you’ll want to incorporate into your own brainstorming sessions to get the most out of them. A few minutes spent understanding some of the common mistakes and hacks for getting the best ideas out of a group can have a big impact on the end result.

A well facilitated brainstorming session can produce up to 30 times as many unique ideas.


If you’d rather skip some of the research and theory behind brainstorming and would like a quick, easy template for a brainstorming session, then the Brainstorming Workbook below is for you.

New Call-to-action

Brainstorming Best Practices Table of Contents

  • Common Brainstorming Mistakes
  • The Best Way to Brainstorm
  • Brainstorming In the Real World
  • When to use brainstorming techniques – pg 5
  • Facilitating brainstorming – different approaches to solicit ideas – pg 6
  • The two best practices to get the most out of brainstorming – pg 7

Common Brainstorming Mistakes

In the years since the concept of brainstorming was first introduced by advertising executive Alex Osborn it was introduced in his book “Applied Imagination“, there’s actually lots of evidence that traditional brainstorming doesn’t work so well. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make.

1. Brainstorming in a group setting

The first real test of Osborn’s brainstorming technique was done at Yale University. 48 individuals were divided into groups and given a series of creative puzzles. The groups were told to follow Osborn’s guidelines. As a control sample, the same puzzles were given to 48 individuals working on their own.

The solo students came up with about twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups.

In addition, a panel of judges said their solutions were more “feasible” and “effective.” Since then, numerous follow-up studies have come to the same conclusion.

  • Blocking: Since only one person can contribute at a time, some people may forget their idea while they’re listening to someone else explain their idea or listening to the discussion that follows.
  • Collaborative Fixation: It’s a collaborative exercise so the tendency is for ideas to follow a similar pattern. The first idea generates further similar ideas and therefore people are influenced by the ideas that preceded theirs.
  • Evaluation Apprehension: Some people may not contribute as effectively because they fear judgment or they may want to think further on their idea before contributing, which is counter to the spirit of brainstorming.
  • Free Riding / Accountability: When someone believes their idea will be judged individually, it was demonstrated that they worked harder on coming up with ideas than when they were told it would be pooled into a group of ideas and then evaluated. So if an individual feels like there’s a good amount of ideas coming from the group, they may feel like they’re less accountable for contributing.
  • Personality Characteristics: Extroverts outperform introverts in group sessions and this is where group think can become a big part of the issue. The loudest person dominates the conversation and others don’t feel comfortable asserting their own ideas.
  • Social Matching: Some people may alter their output to match that of others in the group.

Brainstorming Best Practices Guide

Harness the power of employee ideas.