Five Traps for Teams When Brainstorming

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The following is a short book with outlining five traps for teams to avoid when brainstorming contributed by the Ohio State University Leadership Center.

Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance
W. Gibb Dyer, Jr., Jeffrey H. Dyer, and William G. Dyer; San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (2013)

“All teams, and especially diverse teams, face numerous challenges on the road to innovation success. Here are the most common traps that we have observed and tips for avoiding them.

Trap 1 – The fewer-ideas-generated problem.

On average, a team of people generate far fewer ideas than individuals doing the same thing on their own. A primary reason is that people in a group simply have less time to share their ideas. One approach is to have people generate ideas on their own first and then quickly share them with the team.

Trap 2 – The “first-idea-in-line” problem.

In some cases, the first ideas offered get undue attention. Quantity matters in getting great ideas, but quantity all centered on the same topic is not likely to generate great ideas. For a host of reasons, fixation on early ideas offered happens unless the team leader or facilitator keeps the team generating new and different ideas.

Trap 3 – Failure-to-listen problem.

If we’re trying to remember our own ideas, we don’t listen very well to others’ ideas and don’t build on them. One way to address this problem is to have people brainstorm and write down ideas on their own before bringing them together as a group.

Trap 4 – The intimidation problem.

In some cases, team members are reluctant to contribute to group discussion because they feel intimidated, either by the leader or other members of the team. In these situations, building trust and psychological safety is paramount to having a productive group conversation.

Trap 5 – The free-rider problem.

As teams get larger and more diverse, members may feel that their perspective won’t be valued, so they might as well stay quiet. One way to avoid this problem is to rotate from member to member, asking each for ideas and contributions (p. 200-201).”

Team Building is available from the OSU Leadership Center.

Learn how the Ohio State University Leadership Center is inspiring others to take a leadership role that empowers the world at the OSU Leadership Center website.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On January 21, 2019
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