IPMA International Project Management Association
28 September 2021 / 2:00

Social media driven brain storming: The pros and cons

❝ In the changing world, those organizations will thrive the most that have a tangible strategy for the intangible needs of their customers ❞

Social media is driving disruptive trends across a wide array of domains, including business management, governmental operations, and societal development. The social media-driven Big data is empowering organizations in many ways; enabling improved decision-making and problem resolution. The co-creativity characteristics of social media are allowing organizations and individuals to tap into wisdom at large and use that wisdom and big data-driven knowledge to develop solutions for problems and issues at hand.

When it comes to analyzing problems and identifying solutions, organizations often use brainstorming sessions. However, organizational brainstorming is limited to the wisdom of a few people – mainly coming from within the organization – participating in those sessions. The widescale adoption and extensive use of social media across the globe offers opportunities to take brainstorming sessions to new heights and tap into the wisdom of the community at large. This line of thinking leads to a new phenomenon termed social storming.

We define social storming as a coordinated brainstorming session conducted over a social media channel involving social media users who have voluntarily registered to participate in the session.

Just like any other technique, social storming needs to be evaluated for its pros and cons. Hence, below we look at some of the possible benefits and challenges of using social storming for project work purposes.


Possible benefits of using social storming

  1. Reach out to the untapped wisdom

One of the biggest benefits of using social storming is that it will allow reaching out on a wider scale and, thereby, tapping into untapped wisdom. People using social media come from a wide range of backgrounds, knowledge, experience, skills, and expertise. So, such a mix can be very useful for capturing new ideas. Using brainstorming involving people within the project organization allows tapping into the wisdom of only a few. Social storming can help overcome such limitations and break that mold to provide knowledge beyond project organizational boundaries from a wide spectrum of knowledgeable people and experts.

  1. Enlarge ideas sphere

Social storming will enable enlarging ideas portfolio because ideas will come from a large number of social media users involved in the session. Once a large pool of ideas is captured through a social storming session, organizations can collate, analyze, and structure ideas into categories for use in near and far terms. A large number of ideas can help in identifying opportunities and areas of improvement.


Possible challenges of using social storming

  1. Management of the session

One of the major challenges is organizing social storming sessions. It could happen that a large number of people may register and, hence, the logistics of sessions could be a nightmare. Also, it is important that all participants have the opportunity to provide their ideas, and that would require strong management capabilities and resolve to make storming sessions successful. Collection of ideas and processing them for use will be other challenges to manage.

  1. Intellectual property issues

Another key challenge when conducting social storming sessions is how to avoid intellectual property (IP) related problems. There will always be possibilities and risks that people participating and providing ideas may claim intellectual property at some stage. So, the transfer of rights to an organization needs to be managed. Further, as people participating in storming sessions can come from any part of the world, jurisdiction issues will be another challenge for handling IP matters.

Organizations conducting social storming sessions will need to develop plans and strategies to deal with IP-related challenges and create some legal framework to avoid claims in relation to ideas gathered through these sessions.

  1. Broadness of ideas

Since social storming will involve people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and experiences, it is very likely that the ideas captured are not specific to the purpose and objectives of the session, which could make it difficult to make sense of the ideas collected through social storming. The broadness of ideas could reduce their utility for consideration and use. It could defeat the purpose of conducting social storming sessions.

  1. Data safety and security

Since social storming sessions will be online, data security and safety will be another challenge faced by organizations conducting such sessions. Hacking and data leakage remain some of the potential data theft-related threats. Organizations may also be sensitive about ideas going into competitors’ hands and someone else benefiting from the ideas before they are able to do so.

  1. Organizational inertia

Accepting change is not easy, so, social storming sessions may face disapproval, non-acceptance, and a lack of interest or commitment from those who are supposed to organize these sessions. Senior manager buy-in and full support are needed for the idea to get off the ground. Hence, organizational inertia could impede the use of social storming.

It may be much easier if there are successful use cases. So, rather than trying and testing social storming, organizations may wait till successful use cases are available and then weigh their options to use or not use social storming for business purposes.

Concluding thoughts:
Social media has become an integral part of our lives. Its extensive adoption entails opportunities to use it for creating business value. The connectivity offered by social media is key that allows organizations, both project and non-project based, to interact with a large number of people at any given point in time and benefit from their wisdom. As such, this article examined the pros and cons of using social media for brainstorming. Needless to say, the list of pros and cons is neither exhaustive nor conclusive but provides a starting point for further thought development.

© 2021 Jiwat Ram, All Rights Reserved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Author of this post

Jiwat is a Professor in Project Management. He has considerable experience of working internationally in diverse cultures and business environments.

Jiwat is currently serving on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Project Management.

Jiwat actively contributes to project management community. His work has been published in top scientific journals and Four of his published papers have remained in Top25 most downloaded papers. Additionally, two of his papers have been ranked as the Most Cited article published since 2012. More recently, he has published a number of articles on some of the issues confronting project management in various industry based outlets.