Elisabeth Swan on The Problems With Brainstorming and Why “Structure Sets You Free”


My guest for Episode #389 is Elisabeth Swan. She is the co-author of The Problem-Solver's Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe Podcast. As her bio says, she's “been helping people successfully build their problem-solving muscles for over 30 years, and she loves what she does every single day.”

In the episode, we discuss brainstorming, using an article she wrote for GoLeanSixSigma.com as the starting point: “Green Belts: Group Brainstorming Is a Waste of Time.” Why has classic brainstorming proven to be ineffective, especially in the context of Lean, Six Sigma, or process improvement? And how can it be better given the reality of remote teams?

The conversation also veers into talking about Elisabeth's history in improv comedy and how lessons from the improv approach influence her to this day. Why does “structure set you free” in improv or Lean Six Sigma? We'll talk about that and more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation like I did. You can listen to the audio or watch the video, below.

Streaming Audio Player:

Video of the Episode:

For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/389.

  • How did you get started with Lean Six Sigma?
  • What are some of the problems with brainstorming as it's usually taught and practiced in the context of improvement work?
  • “research says it doesn't work”
  • Want to avoid “jumping to solutions”
  • Quantity over quality is not really helpful?
  • What do you recommend?
  • “Structure sets you free” when it comes to improv comedy or Lean

Here is Elisabeth's webinar on that subject:

And here is a panel discussion that Elisabeth participated in:

Thanks for listening or watching!

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleWhy I’m Partnering Again for #RootCauseRacism, Series 2 @ www.RootCauseRacism.com
Next article“My Favorite Mistake” Episode #12: Angel Cellucci
Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.