A Better Way To Brainstorm

Content from BPR

We’ve all been in brainstorming sessions, whether in a room with others or via Zoom with colleagues based anywhere & everywhere.

Whatever the problem to be solved, there are those who will contribute and those who would like to but won’t.


When it comes to group interactions with colleagues, individuals are particularly vulnerable to a condition known as motivation to conform. The reasons for this can include the need to avoid rejection and conflict, accomplish group goals or establish one’s identity. After all, why undercut your Group Program/Content Director’s views or challenge an opinionated CEO if it means somehow diminishing your own power, influence or authority?

This risk aversion is a big factor in the success or failure of brainstorming sessions.

The global management consultancy, McKinsey & Company, recently posted an article “A Better Way to Brainstorm”.

One of McKinsey’s management tools is Anonymous Brainstorming.

This concept can be a counterweight to our motivations to conform and help contributors feel like their expertise and ideas are being fairly considered.

Here’s how McKinsey’s Anonymous Brainstorming works.

To ensure that all ideas are weighted equally, the person in charge of the session (CEO, Group Program Director etc) appoints a facilitator to collect ideas submitted through a central software application. (This step would be managed ahead of the brainstorming session.)

During brainstorming, ideas would not be presented in a specific order or tied to specific person. This provides anonymity and allows for proposals that may run counter to the opinions of “the loudest voice”/the most powerful person in the session.

The facilitator presents the list of ideas and the individuals vote on them independently (and anonymously) to reveal the degree of alignment behind each idea. Once the ideas have been vetted and reprioritized, the group repeats the silent-voting process until a clear choice can be made.

Now this type of structured facilitation will take more time and effort than a traditional brainstorming session—but it has the potential to reveal truly original business initiatives and creative concepts that may not have come to light if the participants thought their reputations were on the line.


By David Kidd, BPR