Not all meetings are bad. If you can gather the right group to finalize decisions and solve problems, that meeting is well worth everyone's time.

Of course, every meeting doesn't pan out just so.

There's one type of meeting that is known to suck up calendar space, feels like a waste of time, and results in an unsatisfying outcome (if there is any outcome at all).

It's the dreaded brainstorming meeting. Gathering everyone into a room and giving them a mandate to come up with ideas together isn't effective. 

This is a finding from the Ideas Report, which sought to uncover the source of good ideas by surveying 20,000 people who work in creative fields. It was conducted by WeTransfer, a file transfer service. WeTransfer asked: "What distracts you from coming up with creative ideas?" Forty two percent said work was their biggest barrier. 

Meetings are a bad place to brainstorm good ideas

It's not that people have a hard time coming up with creative ideas. The report suggests that forcing people to do this in a group simply doesn't work. Instead of meeting, encourage your people to spend time thinking on their own. 

"Our survey and the scientific evidence suggest that brainstorm sessions and other creative meetings may well be a waste of time," Rob Alderson, the creator of WeTransfer's Idea Report says. "Send people off with the time and space to think properly and the quality of their ideas will probably improve."

The winning formula for ideas. (Hint: There is none)

One problem may be that brainstorming meetings try to systematize idea generation.

Ideas are pesky little things with lives of their own. They do not give you forewarning about when they will reveal themselves. Ideas do not often magically appear in brainstorming meetings. 

"I don't think there's any formula for a good idea," says Debbie Millman, the host of the Design Matters podcast. "I think a lot of them happen when you're not expecting them."

If you're struggling coming up with ideas, Millman's advice is simple: Keep struggling. "We have to work hard on our ideas, and if that includes struggling then lean into it because, in the end, it's all worth it."

Published on: Jan 16, 2020
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