What evolution tells us about how to brainstorm?

João Abrantes
2 min readDec 12, 2021


Brainstorming is about evolving ideas from stupid to good.

Evolving is the key word. In this post, I think out loud about what Memetic Evolution can tell us on how to evolve stupid ideas into good ones, faster — in other words, what does it tell us about how to brainstorm in an efficient way?

All good ideas were guessed

All good ideas were guessed by someone and survived enough tests to be considered good ideas. This process of generating ideas and filtering the bad ones can be seen through the lenses of memetic evolution.

There are two key processes in any evolutionary process: the addition of variance (mutations) and subtraction of the unfit (selection of the fittest).

The more cycles of mutations and filtrations that we can go through, the faster evolution occurs and the higher the quality of the resulting ideas will be. This gives us the golden rule of brainstorming:

Don’t subtract without adding

We’re trying to evolve ideas: from stupid to good. Make no mistake, the first ideas will be stupid. We often have the urge to point at all the weaknesses and kill the idea altogether. This leads to extinction, which stops evolution. All the ideas that were on the table are now dead because you found all of their weaknesses — congratulations..?

That was not our goal. To avoid this, we need to look at each idea as being composed of many sub-ideas (memes). It’s our job to identify and select the good memes and use them to create the next generation of ideas to be discussed. To do that, we look only at the memes that are good (the parts of the idea that we like) and we generate new guesses to fill in the gaps of the memes that we left behind. This process is similar to the “Yes, and..” thinking used in improvisational comedy to keep the show going, in this post, I am looking at that concept from an evolutionary perspective.

To have a successful brainstorm, it is forbidden to dismiss a meme without offering anything in return. We might feel smarter by spotting all the weaknesses but being good at brainstorming is not about being able to catch more weaknesses, it’s about being able to generate good ideas on top of bad ideas.

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer — Bruce Lee

P.S. Before criticizing this post, think about how to improve it!



João Abrantes

AI researcher into reinforcement learning, complex systems and collaboration tech.