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Is Brainstorming a Waste of Time?

One of the top uses of MindManager has been consistently reported as “Brainstorming”. I personally love to see my ideas flow and take shape on maps. Mark McGuinness at Lateral Action posed the question, Is Brainstorming a Waste of Time? in an update to their blog. They’re discussing ‘formal brainstorming’ which is governed by a set of rules that originated with advertising manager Alex Faickney Osborn, in his 1963 book Applied Imagination.

Photo by jurvetson

So, the ‘formal’ rules are basically:

  1. Generate as many ideas as possible – the more ideas you come up with, the better chance you have of coming up with good ones.
  2. Don’t criticize – it will dampen peoples enthusiasm and kill their creativity.
  3. Welcome unusual ideas – it’s important to break out of your usual mindset and consider wild and wacky ideas if you want to be really creative.
  4. Combine and improve ideas – instead of criticizing ideas, look for way to use them in combination and/or make them better.

The critics however state that brainstorming leads to:

  • Not enough good ideas
  • Lack of critical filters
  • Inhibition
  • Freeloading
  • Taking turns
  • Group think


I’ve been in some wildly productive brainstorming sessions with clients and with internal teams. We used MindManager projected in meetings or on webcasts and later, Mindjet Connect, which let the whole team, from multiple locations, add ideas simultaneously on the same map. The results:

  • Lots of great ideas
  • Incredible participation
  • Excitement
  • Simultaneous idea generation
  • Team synergy


Was there GroupThink? Perhaps a little. Was there Turn Taking? At times, by choice. Inhibition? Not by me 🙂 Freeloading? Never! Critical filters? Ok, I have to admit it’s sometimes painful to listen to bad ideas or ideas that won’t fly without saying something.

So, mind managers of the world. How does mapping impact your brainstorming sessions? Add value? Good ideas? Share your comments below.