Even Brainstorms Should Have a Forecast

Last Updated Jan 21, 2008 11:19 AM EST

Brainstorming is often bandied about as the very apex of effective teamwork. However, in a recent survey conducted by BNET and Harris Interactive, only 45 percent of teams reported doing so on a frequent basis, though a full 92 percent do so at least occasionally.

Results, as well as interviews with respondents, suggest that brainstorming may be less popular and less effective because it is not being undertaken properly.

"Team members may complain about brainstorming because they aren't being heard," says Zia Khan, a principal at Katzenbach Partners, a management consultancy. "The complaint is less around them not having decision-making power, just that the purpose (of the brainstorming) is not always clear."

Survey respondents agree that the most frustrating aspect of collaboration is when your ideas and opinions aren't accepted or discussed. 37 percent of respondents put this complaint at the top of their list.

The venue for brainstorming also appears to have an effect on its efficacy. A field engineer for a voice-over-Internet provider spends a lot of time in the field and complains of the constraints that a far-flung, mobile workforce puts on collaboration. "Any brainstorming is done over email," he says. "Which isn't so effective."

This is also borne out in the survey results, which show that face-to-face contact with team members is the number one factor in the success of collaboration, being named so by 50 percent of respondents.