Entrepreneurs

Why the most innovative people don't use brainstorming meetings

Having innovative ideas can help you stand out in any job.

But truly original concepts are hard to come by, according to Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, author of the books "Give and Take" and "Originals" and top-rated professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for five years.

The problem is that most people are approaching the brain-storming process incorrectly, Grant explains.

"The first ideas you think of are usually the most conventional," Grant says in an interview with Amazon. "If you want to be creative, you need variety.

Adam Grant speaks about "Option B," his new book written with Sheryl Sandberg, at a Commonwealth Club event in San Francisco.
Adam Grant speaks about "Option B," his new book written with Sheryl Sandberg, at a Commonwealth Club event in San Francisco.

"So they call the most innovative people they know, and they gather them for a brain-storming meeting. This turns out to be a terrible idea."

There are three problems with just gathering colleagues in a room to think, Grant says. First, some participants may be introverted and can end up being ignored. There is also a tendency to hold back from sharing the most outlandish ideas (which can also be the most innovative).

"No one wants to look stupid," Grant says.

Lastly, groups can experience "convergent thinking," where "everyone jumps on the bandwagon" and agrees with an idea, stifling less popular suggestions.

So what is the solution? Grant says the best technique for sparking creative ideas is to instead have individuals write their thoughts on paper first, then share.

"Let people come up with ideas separately," he says. And, be sure the lists of ideas are long.

"There is some evidence that in a brain-storming exercise or a brain-writing exercise, your first 20 ideas are actually less creative than your next 15, and that if you want to max out on creativity you actually need 200 ideas on the table before you hit the highest point of novelty," Grant explains.

Successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson have cited creativity as a key component for a prosperous business.

"Creativity is one of the cornerstones of the Virgin brand," Branson writes on his blog of his global company that spans space travel through mobile phones. "Our success has been defined by our ability to take a step back from problems, and re-imagine them to in turn see new, original solutions."

"Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary even says pursuing creative hobbies like photography and guitar has made him more successful in business.

For Jeff Chapin, a co-founder and the chief product officer of direct to consumer mattress company Casper, developing new ideas is key. His best advice to be more creative is to get away from the office and interact with customers, clients or competitors.

"Get out of your desk chair," Chapin tells CNBC Make It. "You're never getting good ideas sitting behind your computer."

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