Brainstorming

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Artists' Corner, Leadership Development
Tags: , ,

Brainstorming can be done alone or in groups, for fun or serious business, in any number of different environments. Merely talking about something creative is not necessarily brainstorming. Evaluating ideas is not brainstorming. Evaluation occurs later in the collaboration process. Brainstorming is the soil in which ideas are formed. If we put time and energy into valuing the initial brainstorming process, we will end up with much better ideas in the end.

Everything I have read on brainstorming concludes that brainstorming requires a “yes” mentality. In essence, it is optimism that makes for good brainstorming. It is not the quality of the ideas that count at first. We must understand that the sheer quantity of ideas eventually leads to quality. So, with each new idea that is presented, we know that it is only getting us closer to the idea that will stick. This is not a time to be practical. This is not the time to think about the limitations of finances or skill or manpower. Brainstorming can a lot of fun because it is a time to celebrate the exploration of pure imagination.

The only goal of brainstorming is creative movement. We want to get our ideas out of the normal pattern of thinking and start to see things in new ways. When you brainstorm in a group, it creates an advantage, because the ideas of others can springboard your own rigid or usual patterns of thinking to initiate that creative movement that you want. If you brainstorm alone, you have to make a conscious effort to take in input that is outside of yourself so that you can listen for other perspectives. In fact, the diversity of the input makes for greater levels of creativity. Listening to the perspective of children, of the elderly, of people with differing backgrounds, allows for you to open up your mind to other surprising and fun modes of thinking.

In group brainstorming sessions, no one should be stingy or lazy with ideas. Stingy means refusing to share everything you’ve got (got this concept @stephenbrewster.me). Lazy means refusing to try to think of anything other than your first idea. So, in a group brainstorming session, no one gets to stand by and simply evaluate other people’s ideas. Everyone participates in the process, with the possible exception of a facilitator who understands the process and whose role is to simply clarify and keep the conversation focused on brainstorming.

Therefore, when you enter into a group brainstorming session, expect to be stretched and challenged; to suspend your judgement for the time being and see in a new way. Suspending judgement takes discipline and focus, especially if your job requires you to make lots of judgement calls. In order to take in the ideas of others and add in your own to the mix, you have to let down your guard and just enjoy the ride.

Each brainstorming session can and should be followed up by collaboration sessions in order to select and execute the chosen idea. See my “collaboration guidelines” article for more on this subject. The cool thing about brainstorming is that no ideas need to be lost. Whatever notes are taken or ideas that spark in the minds of participants, can be used to create more movement for a later project. When you enter into this process, you can be tempted to think that it is not worth the time. But if you give it a chance, you will learn to enjoy it, get better at it, and appreciate the quality of the ideas that come from it.

How do you brainstorm?

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