Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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The Brainstorming “M Curve”

For anyone who has ever been involved in a brainstorm, or just been trying to figure out a problem, you know about how there’s always that low point. It’s normally the time when everyone has come up with a bunch of good ideas and it doesn’t seem like there are many other interesting places to go. Often brainstorms even end at this point. However, as I learned while having a drink with a friend of mine currently getting his MBA, if you push through that valley of ideas you will see another, even more fruitful peak. That’s when the really great ideas come out. The innovative ideas.

Let me illustrate for you:


Essentially what you get in that first curve is some good ideas. Sometimes they can even be great. But if you push through the low point, you have a chance to come up with even more innovative approaches to solving the problem at hand.

As someone who is quite fond of brainstorming, I’m always looking for new tips and techniques to help make ideation more fruitful. The “m curve” seems like something you can take far beyond a brainstorm, however. There’s a larger lesson here about the benefits of sticking with something. Funny enough, just today I was reading an article about the importance of grit in someone’s success. The article points to a recent University of Pennsylvania study, which found “that the gritty are more likely to achieve success in school, work and other pursuits — perhaps because their passion and commitment help them endure the inevitable setbacks that occur in any long-term undertaking.”

In an effort not to sound like some kind of self-help preacher, I’m going to cut myself off here. You always hear that innovative ideas come at the most unexpected times, but maybe if we just fought a little harder through our “idea block” we’d find innovation more easily.

Just as a last note, I found very little (other than this blog entry) on the “m curve” in a very limited Google search. If anyone finds any more information on it, I’d be greatly appreciative.

December 21, 2005