What’s all the buzz about? Redefining creative collaboration with brainswarming

Could brainswarming...

Can brainswarming help you have the breakthrough you’ve been needing? (Photo via RioPatuca on Shutterstock.)

Brainstorming: it’s a tool we’ve come to know and love (or hate) as a default way to generate fresh ideas for our projects, programs, and more when we’re stuck or just starting out.

However, in a recent Fast Company post and in his new e-book, Kevin Maney suggests it might be time to think of this old-school method as old news.

He writes that brainstorming “relies on a thunderstorm metaphor–a sudden swirl of energy that gets everybody’s attention for a moment, then passes by, dissipates, and leaves nothing behind.”

So, out with the brainstorm, Maney says, and in with with brainswarm.

How does it work? Below is a short summary of the steps:

  1. Get the right swarmers. Cultivate a tight-knit core swarm and get them into a room with fresh recruits who will say something to shake up the familiar.
  2. Have a swarm room.  The worst place to jam on new ideas might just be the place where most companies today send people to jam on new ideas: the traditional conference room.
  3. Multiple writing and sketching surfaces are key. If everyone in the session has a pen and access to a writing surface, barriers to sharing ideas fall away.
  4. Herd the swarmers. Too many idea sessions start with a rule that there are no rules…if you have infinite choices, what do you choose?
  5. Be a critical swarm. Stop being so warm and fuzzy…Brainswarms need both a surfeit of ideas and constructive debate about those ideas. Bad ideas can lead to good debates that then lead to better ideas.
  6. Swarm success. There are lots of ways to make sure the ideas don’t get lost. Assign someone to synthesize and write up the swarm’s best ideas.
  7. Don’t stop. That’s the vital difference between brainswarms and brainstorms. Brainswarms never end.

How has brainstorming worked or not worked for you? Is it time for a new strategy?

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Comments (1)


  1. Valerie Vandermeer writes:
    August 7, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Number 4 is an excellent point. A little context helps focus creative minds.


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