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Better Than Brainstorming

I just finished reading an amazing book, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer.  His was not the first book, but simply the most recent to dispel the notion of brainstorming, how it has been proven to be one of the least effective methods of creativity.

I admit, I was a brainstorming junkie.  As a typical extroverted, talk-to-think person, I bought into the concept, and often wondered why my staff couldn’t come up with as many great ideas as I thought they should.  My first breakthrough in weaning off of brainstorming came when I had my staff plan an event for us back in May.  The ideas they came up with were far better than any we would conjure up in our meetings.

This morning I put the final nail in the coffin of the traditional brainstorming by trying a new twist based on some ideas from Lehrer’s book and others who have helped me along the way.  Instead of the typical shout-out-ideas-while-I-write-them-on-an-easel-pad session, I split the staff up into partners with one rule – it had to be a new partner with whom you had not previously been paired.  I gave them a pad of paper and ten minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible for a new event we are considering.  After the ten minutes they brought their ideas to the group where we shot down the ridiculous ones immediately and added to the good ones.

By the time I was done we had pages upon pages of notes and people fired up wanting to get started.

Not only was the quantity of ideas better, not only was the quality of ideas better, the staff was motivated and ready to take up arms to get the best ideas off the ground right away.  Contrast that to your last brainstorming session.

Hi, I’m Phil.  I’m a recovering brainstormer.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  I used four new ideas this morning that I believe made the difference…

  1. Team up in small teams – collaboration is good and helps take the pressure off the individual without bogging down the process when too many people have to agree
  2. Pair up with someone new – fresh is best to get new and interesting perspectives
  3. Shoot down the obviously bad ideas right away – everyone knows they are bad, let them die a quick and noble death.
  4. Expand on the really good ideas right away – strike while the iron is hot!

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