Going to brainstorms also expands the skills a designer uses during a typical day or week.
IDEO brainstorms provide the opportunity to use high-level technical skills, a benefit not given to most participants in brainstorming experiments.
IDEO engineers enjoy brainstorms because they are a way to "stick their fingers" into many design problems, apply design knowledge in new ways, and learn about new products and industries without ruining progress on their long-term projects.
Designers referred to "real" brainstorms as scheduled meetings in conference rooms led by a facilitator.
As Table 1 indicates, IDEO brainstorms were used and talked about in ways that reflected and reinforced the attitude of wisdom, especially in asking others for help and experimenting.
Designers viewed brainstorms as one of the best ways to get help and give help to others because, compared with e-mails or brief conversations, richer information was exchanged and attention was focused narrowly on the problem.
Brainstorms are often used early in a project and a large percentage (20-40 percent) of the engineers in Palo Alto attend these "kick-off" brainstorms.
IDEO's Methodology Handbook encourages designers to call brainstorms "for getting unstuck" when something won't fit, might break, or is too expensive.
In addition to being requests for help and creating a setting in which designers help one another, IDEO's brainstorms also reflect and reinforce a norm of experimentation.
IDEO brainstorms teach and remind designers to generate many ideas, develop a few in depth, make many changes in developed ideas, and reflect the belief that many bad ideas can lead to a few good ones.
The talking and listening during and after brainstorms takes time away from other tasks: Helping on other projects delays a designer's own projects, informal conversations after brainstorms are usually not billed to clients, and trying many prototypes consumes time and money.
Like meetings studied by anthropologists, brainstorms can be described as "prestige" or "status" auctions, in which people bid for status, and depending on how others respond, their status may go up or down (Schwartzman, 1986).
Table 1 summarizes the evidence that brainstorms are status auctions.
The more you do this the more people seek after you to be a guru in their brainstorms.