Better Brainstorming with AI

Generative AI tools are taking brainstorming to another level. Are you on board?

Written by Dave Garrett • 3 Jul 2024

Better brainstorming with AI

Pre-pandemic, common brainstorming methods existed mostly off-line and in person. White boards, sticky notes, and markers were the tools of the trade. Digital versions of these tools became far more popular as the ubiquity of remote work and distributed teams increased. Now, game-changing generative AI tools are taking brainstorming to another level.

Brainstorming has been — and always will be — a human-led task. But the latest AI-based technology is providing opportunities to vastly improve how we brainstorm and what we achieve from it. In the generative AI space, PMI research classifies AI-assisted brainstorming as “augmenting” human skills. Greater productivity, yes. But in alignment with improved quality and effectiveness as well.

Some project managers are realizing these benefits right now. In our report on adoption of GenAI, project managers who are wholeheartedly engaging with GenAI are identified as “trailblazers.” They use GenAI for augmentation three times more than “explorers,” who view these capabilities as something to experiment with, rather than fully adopt. And many project managers haven’t even started to experiment, much less incorporate GenAI into their ways of working. But can any project manager afford to sit on the sidelines when it comes to AI?

Our recent webinar, Brainstorming with AI Tools,  explored the evolution of brainstorming, a journey that goes from “me” to “we” to a future state. Let’s look at that journey through all three stages.

GenAI can help you prep more effectively to lead any brainstorming meeting.

When we first encounter a new technology, our first questions are, “Is this worth my time?” and “What’s in it for me?”

As Keisha Lewis, chief project officer for Montgomery County Government, has found that a project manager using GenAI for a brainstorming session jumpstarts the conversation in a more productive place and produces a first draft of ideas that saves at least one hour. This GenAI-sparked output changes the initial role of team members from “generators of obvious ideas” to “editors of a fairly solid strawman [— an approach intended to generate discussion and generate better ideas],” she says.

There are many advantages to this approach. You are:

  • Saving your time and your team’s time, which would have been spent on the basics.
  • Advancing the work more rapidly than planned, which is helpful to your schedule.
  • Improving the experience of the team because they are operating at a higher level, creating B versus C-grade output, which is the typical brainstorming bar.

GenAI can help every team member participate more effectively in brainstorming meetings.

As AI benefits gain traction in an organization, more team members from all functions adopt GenAI, using it throughout the day on many activities such as risk management. PMI research has found that multiple participants can use different GenAI tools to support their contributions to brainstorming – still in text. This builds a more robust, diverse set of ideas and helps to refine existing ones. In this approach, the team is:

  • Raising the performance bar for every participant, and spurring more tech adoption.
  • Refining the output from B to A-grade work.
  • Benefiting from team and tool diversity, with each individual drawing from a unique set of experiences to consider issues and prompting each tool to call on its particular capabilities.

GenAI’s participation in a team brainstorming session will make the team, as a whole, stronger.

With the latest advancements on all major GenAI platforms, chatbots are becoming real-time, active participants using a voice interface and interactivity. that encourages users to treat it more like a human than a machine.

In this approach, the team is:

  • Focusing more on the conversation than the technology.
  • Freeing themselves from meeting documentation, as the bot can hear and report on what transpires.
  • Reducing the number of action items by having “someone” else try to answer questions and offer solutions right away on the fly, simply by verbalizing them.

GenAI partnership will not be without its challenges, however. People let their guard down in casual conversation and sometimes reveal things they would not mention if they had to type them into a chat interface. Everyone will need practice to interact effectively with the chat bots, which are designed to be interrupted and to “go with the flow.”

Looking Ahead…

Generative AI tools are going to play a larger role in settings that we might have considered uniquely human a couple of years ago. They bring with them a world of experience that still needs to be guided by you, your team and relevant SMEs. But everyone needs to keep up with the evolving use cases that later become common practice.

Think of these technologies as your second brain. They will raise management’s expectations going forward. They also have the potential to exponentially improve your performance in surprising ways. Being a trailblazer — staying current and making the best use of these GenAI tools — can make the difference between career success and failure in the coming years. Being a first mover will not only make you a better project manager, but a better leader overall. Your organization and your team will appreciate the effort, as will anyone who reviews your resume.

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Dave Garrett headshot

Dave Garrett
Senior Advisor to the CEO | PMI

As Senior Advisor to the CEO, Dave Garrett advises and supports decision-making regarding the execution of the PMI strategy to create a clear growth path and increase the value delivered to our customers. He advises PMI leadership and our teams, ensuring seamless alignment and integration across the organization. Dave has previously held senior leadership roles at PMI including Chief Strategy & Growth Office; Vice President, Corporate Development & Innovation; and Vice President, Transformation.

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