July 1, 2012

Brainstorming, crowdsourcing, crapsifting

As we have often said, brainstorming is a feel-good exercise, wildly popular, frequently employed, and rarely useful.

The terminal O in ad agency BBDO, Alex Osborne, invented the word, and perhaps the technique, in 1940. His book How to Think Up spread the gospel in 1942.

Jonah Lehrer’s recent Imagine, on the other glove, points out the research that debunks the myth, and offers some alternatives that produce better, more strategic breakthroughs. The question remains: why is an unsuccessful technique so celebrated?

brainstorming concept dispenser

For an alternative, see our blog post on The Concept Dispenser™. Seriously.

The answer for its popularity becomes clear when you reflect on the uplifting message sent to participants: there are no bad ideas, no negative thoughts, no rejection – so fill up easel page after easel page with “ideas” until we reach creative self-congratulation. Even a facilitator of modest skill can get a group to generate hundreds of these gems before the snacks run out.

Quantity, quantity, impressive quantity. The online variation is crowdsourcing, also wildly popular. Need a new company name or logo? Why pay Landor or Interbrand six figures when you can offer $1500 to a crowd who will flood you with “ideas”? Even better, the process leaves you completely in charge, to be your own brand strategist/creative director. It’s empowering. Ego-boosting.

We coined the word crapsifting™ to get to the really important next step. Neither the group in the conference room nor the source crowd (art school students and desperate third-world freelancers) brings strategic editing to the game, and that’s one discipline you should pay the big bucks for.

By way of illustration, we had three company naming opportunities in the past year where we had crowdsourcing competitors. The crowd offered up 237 and 314 and 1165 names; we offered an average of 2. We were chosen each time.

What’s our advantage? The mysterious and powerful Concept Dispenser. ;-)