In a video at Harvard Business Review, Dr. Tony McCaffrey explains why brainstorming isn’t efficient and why you should consider the alternative instead:

No study has proven that brainstorming works well, even though it has been the go-to method for idea generation since 1953.

But there is an alternative. After researching why brainstorming inhibits creativity and innovation, my colleagues and I came up with a new process we call Brainswarming….To start brainswarming, write the goal or problem you need to achieve or solve on a big piece of paper and have your team sit silently and write down different ways to tackle it with your company’s resources in mind. Once the right resources are found, you’ve come up with your solution.

Brainswarming challenges the concept of brainstorming by first addressing why any ideation discussion needs to happen in the first place. Then, according to McCaffrey, by breaking goals into subgoals and relying on individuals to raise resources to meet them, the idea magic happens somewhere in the middle. Watch the video below or on HBR.

  • Mark
    • tannerc

      Thanks for these references Mark.

      It looks like the name “Brainswarming” was actually established many, many years ago. Unfortunately there are multiple groups and individuals claiming to be the source of the term now, with no clear indication of who actually came up with it first and who might authentically own the trademark.

      I’ll dig around a bit more and see how these groups all intersect, if at all. If you come across anything more please feel free to share.

  • Festival Edge

    This is a much better alternative. Primarily because the strongest voices tends to have their brainstorm dominate in the traditional model. This equalizes the process somewhat allowing the introverts to add their wisdom.

  • BillYoungdahl

    Try Teamput ( for brainswarming. You can use side-by side idea canvases. One for silently gathering your thoughts. The other for rapidly sharing them with the group. The silent part of brainswarming is essentially brainwriting.

  • Yustas

    Does it mean that each team member has his own copy of initial graph and writes on it silently or do their intervene on the mutual graph at the same time ? (in the latter, it can become a big mess..)

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