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Brainstorming is a tactic for generating lots of ideas in a team. The key is that while brainstorming no one can critique the ideas of others and there should be no negative feedback. Essentially everyone agrees to only generate new ideas or add to ideas, but not to criticize ideas or try to prioritize them.

There is a nice critical discussion of brainstorming in a New Yorker article Groupthink by Jonah Lehrer. As he puts it,

The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they’ll end up saying nothing at all. The appeal of this idea is obvious: it’s always nice to be saturated in positive feedback. Typically, participants leave a brainstorming session proud of their contribution. The whiteboard has been filled with free associations. Brainstorming seems like an ideal technique, a feel-good way to boost productivity. But there is a problem with brainstorming. It doesn’t work.

It would seem that debate and criticism actually leads to more ideas than groupthink. Imagination is provoked when there is dissonance not agreement. Nonetheless, brainstorming can be a way of including people in a discussion who might be intimidated by debate. It can be a way to start a discussion that can lead into more critical debate.

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