When faced with a project there are three places to thrash:

Early—before the project begins.

Middle—as the project is proceeding.

Late—as the project ends.

When you (or your team) thrashes early, brainstorming becomes a way to develop new ideas. Speed and immediacy become the primary goals of early thrashing: Speed to actionable ideas and immediacy to the implementation of action, moving toward accomplishing end-of-project goals.

When you (or your team) thrashes in the middle of a project, brainstorming becomes a place to hide. Hiding emotionally, “getting to know your team,” or struggling to decide about the efficacy or practicality of an idea, become the unstated, primary goals. Speed becomes less important than looking good to peers, and groupthink really kicks in at this point, bogging down the implementation process.

When you (or your team) thrashes at the end of a project, brainstorming becomes a place of panic, anxiety, and on some teams (or with you) a place of abject fear. The combination of pressure to ship something out the door encourages a mindset and attitude focused around speed (but for negative reasons) and impatience with people and processes. The implementation process recedes in the face of the attitude of “just get it done.”

Thrashing—that is brainstorming a direction, deciding on an approach, planning a process, managing opinions and conflicts, and implementing a plan for action—should be done early, rather than late if you’re really interested (or your team is really interested) in shipping a product, idea, or service out the door and direct to the market.