7 Phrases to Outlaw from Brainstorming

The best ideas in an organizational setting often come through brainstorming. I love getting a group together and searching for new ideas or ways of doing things.

Change spurs momentum. If you want to create some excitement around you, get a bunch of people in a room and brainstorm about some change ideas. If you are in a stuck or stale position…and want to see new growth…one recommendation I’d give is to organize a brainstorming session.

But, you’ve got to be intentional to brainstorm successfully. You need enough people to establish a variety of thought. (If you don’t have a large church staff, invite some lay people.) You need the right people…people who will voice opinions, but will be positive-minded.

You need to have some open ended questions…or issues to solve…to spur discussion.

And, then you need to establish some rules up front.

Specifically, there are certain phrases that cannot be heard in an effective brainstorming session. They are off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.

Here are 7 phrases to eliminate in brainstorming:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • We can’t afford that.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • That won’t work.
  • I don’t like that.
  • The problem with that is…
  • That’s crazy…(Or you’re crazy).

Long sighs…shrugged shoulders…or any animation that displays a sense of disgust or lack of initial support should also be discouraged.

There should be plenty of time to critique ideas before they are implemented, but for a brainstorming session you want every idea on the table. There are no bad ideas at this point. In fact, the one that may seem the worst idea of all may be the trigger for someone else’s spark of genius.

This is a great time to encourage randomness. I’ve even led us to play games prior to a brainstorming session.

New ideas are usually out there..they just need to be brought to the table. That’s the point of brainstorming.

What ideas can you add for productive brainstorming?

(Note: I am familiar that some are now saying the term brainstorming is offensive and not politically correct. I mean no harm by this post, but I used it because the term is still most people’s understanding of the process.)

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26 thoughts on “7 Phrases to Outlaw from Brainstorming

  1. The majority of us undergo periods of feeling unfavorable regarding something. Often it is caused by a specific occasion and the unfavorable sensations are short-term.

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  2. Hi Ron:
    I do brainstorming sessions in which I start with a guideline preamble Seven Deadly Sins of Brainstorming and How not to commit them (about ten minutes) Then we do a demonstration by brainstorming a real concern that needs fresh ideas. All seven sins and the solutions are listed on my blog at http://successrevisited.com/?p=359.

    You are very correct about the no no phrases, they deflate a session like popping a balloon and that's why setting the guidelines up front is so important.

  3. This is really good. However this needs to be implemented from senior leadership, and that leadership needs to have the personal security to hear other people's ideas which may be completely contrary to that senior leaders ideas or even understanding. For example, if a senior Pastor has been doing neighbourhood post outs and you suggest switching to social media paid advertisements, it will then come down to the security or insecurity of the senior pastor as to whether that idea is shot down or considered. It is a two way street through because the person suggesting the idea needs to be respectful in how the idea is presented.
    Your tips and 'exclusion list of terms' for healthy discussion is excellent!
    Thank you!

  4. Really good post! I have never heard of anyone saying that brainstorming was offensive, although as an introvert I wonder why it exists (just kidding!). I have heard a few of these terms in meetings. We never did it that way before, was always one of my "favorites".
    Twitter: bryankr

  5. I think you're right about avoiding those phrases when trying to come up with new ideas. I do however think that brainstorming is a little overrated all together. I've been in a few brainstorming sessions and have never seen anything amazing produced by them. It seems that most sparks of creativity and ingenuity happen individually, often outside of the confines of a brainstorming session.

      • Yes, I suppose you're right there could be a problem with the follow up too, however, I've also read some research recently that seems to indicate that brainstorming sessions are a very ineffective way to come up with new ideas.

  6. Was always fun to do this with school kids. At first they would be timid then gradually a response; even if it was ridiculous we would stop and disect it to see if there was any part of it we could use and this would get the brains started. Sometimes it ended up in a giggle fest but worth the exercise. As time went on you could see their eyes light up along with ther brains really focusing on the assignment. I miss those times.

  7. Awesome post! I had never heard that "brainstorming" is offensive. You learn something new everyday!
    Here is an idea for brainstorming!
    A fun thing is to have an "out of the box" lunch. Your team comes together and there is a box lunch for them and taped to the box is a one line typed note (something you want them to brainstorm) During lunch they have to come up with something "out of the box" to say about the note taped to their box. Tell everyone to listen carefully because they will be required to add their opinion. After everyone has made an "out of the box" statement, then ask them to pass their notes to the left and then give them a moment to answer: "what do you think about the "out of the box" statement that you heard about the note you now have. Anything "out of the box" to add? It makes for a spontaneous "out of the box" fun discussion time.

    Twitter: kmac4him

  8. I agree with this for sure! I know first hand the damage to momentum that can be done by filtering every idea through the “so-and-so won’t like that” filter.

    bold ideas require bold action!

    Great post.

  9. Great post. I especially like the "post-list" comment about non-verbal communication. A lot can be said without being said to let everyone in the room know that you don't like an idea.