We’ve all been there. Your boss is looking for new ideas. Be it a new product, service or approach. So the usual practice is to call a meeting, get together and be “creative” in a brainstorming session.

However when all is said and done, you realize it was a total waste of time, and nothing really came out of it.

But why does this happen? There are a number of reasons why brainstorming sessions fail, but most commonly the person leading the session simply doesn’t have a clue about innovation and creativity. Besides one person’s competence, there are other reasons why brainstorming sessions fail to produce creative ideas.

Why Brainstorming Sessions Fail?

1. The Presentation On How It’s Been Done Before

Never ever start your brainstorming session with how it has been done before!

Doing so jeopardizes the whole purpose of the session, and everyone from thinking about anything else.

The whole point of the brainstorm is to develop creative ideas together, and not rip off somebody else’s solution to the problem.

2. Where’s The Inspiration?

One of the most annoying things somebody can say during a brainstorming session is, “Just be creative.” Yeah. If only creativity was something we could switch on at as soon as the occasion demands it.

Telling everyone to “be creative” is idiotic and counter productive. Yet it happens all the time. Nonetheless, whoever is leading the session needs to give you something to be inspired by.

Creative ideas come about through switching your line thought to something it’s not accustomed. In order take that leap, everyone needs some sort of stimuli in the room to provoke the creative thinking process.

3. The Discussion Group

A major problem with discussion groups is when everyone is asked to discuss the topic at hand. While sitting down, there’s no structure, no direction and certainly nothing inspirational.

As a result, each group is left trying to figure out how to approach the brainstorming (if you can call it that anymore). Which then typically leads to someone trying to dominate the whole discussion by pushing through their ideas.

This often results in everyone else backing off and letting that person take center stage.

For the most part a dominating character will take the lead in the group and make it their mission to show off their knowledge or authority by telling stories or asking if others have read this or that. All of which is not constructive and in the end is just a waste of time.

4. Over Prepared

As soon as the announcement goes out, everyone starts meticulously planning what he or she is going to say. Ideas get polished in preparation for the brainstorming session and everyone is convinced their idea is the best.

Because everyone is well prepared, nothing creative comes out of it and new ideas are shot down. This is often a symptom of people being wrapped up in their own little idea bubble, and in the process, block out the suggestions of others.

5. Tunnel Vision

Brainstorming sessions are all about thinking differently and from perspectives. However, in order for this to happen, there needs to be something to prompt everyone to seeing things from different angles.

Through a combination of uninspiring surroundings and people clinging to their ideas. The brainstorming session becomes an event where generic ideas are tossed around, not embraced by others and defended vigorously by their creators. Which leaves the ideas with potential left to drift into obscurity.

6. The Wrong Questions

What can we do about Product X? How should we market Product X? These questions are idiotic, because the first reaction everyone in the room is going to have is revert to the old and tested methods of doing things. Let’s send out a press release, let’s add new features and brand it Product X2.

This does nothing to challenge the status quo and the whole purpose of a brainstorming session is exactly that.

Instead set up a theme that opens up the chance for creative ideas, one example could be “how to make software applications load faster?” or “emergency power source for traveling heavy smartphone users”

7. Focusing On The Negatives

Instead of looking into what can be done. There will be constant opposition about what can’t be done and why you can’t do this.

Doing so brings down morale and limits the possibilities of creative thought. Now, everyone is afraid of expressing their thought out of fear that people will think it’s stupid.

The best thing you can do in the beginning is to avoid criticism at all costs and be open to ideas, no matter how ridiculous they sound to you.

Think back to your previous so-called brainstorming session or strategy meeting and you’ll spot the issues highlighted here.

For more information, check out How to hold the perfect brainstorming session?