This is our response to the article “Critique is Not the Enemy“, by Professor Alf Rehn, August 7, 2014, on the International Coach Federation blog.
In my experience, when something doesn’t make much sense it is only because we haven’t fully understood it. The same can be said for brainstorming.
Yes, it is touted as a technique for generating a free flow of ideas but as professor Rehn states the energy dissipates very quickly and any criticism is perceived as negative feedback killing off whatever involvement is left. Thus, brainstorming is not a very effective way of achieving the stated goal. Therefore, it must mean the goal is wrong.
Brainstorming is much more effective when simply seen for what it is: a technique for creating a greater sense of community cohesion. As any good performer knows, you have build a rapport with your audience, they need to feel involved in what is happening. There needs to be a connection. Professor Rehn implicitly recognizes this by starting his article with the example of a meeting already in progress that is interrupted to start a brainstorming session. The challenge is for the facilitator to generate audience involvement convincingly or risk losing his audience altogether. Using equal and evenhanded responses or plastic smiles will not cut it. However, just like a comedian will pick on certain members or groups in the audience in a playful way to create and keep engagement, the facilitator can do the same with their feedback, or criticism, to orient audience involvement.