I recently became involved at work with helping facilitate a brainstorming session. It did not help much that this comic strip was just published (thanks to http://dilbert.com):
So I had to delve into the latest research about it. It turns out I had the books that Scott Adams probably read or heard of to come up with this comic. There is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talkingby Susan Cain. I had recently watched her TED talk so I had her book checked out of the library. She makes a point that you are better off coming up with ideas off on your own, and the research she cites does agree.
I also have been reading Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer which is so packed with useful research, that I will devote a few future blogs to it. Jonah does address the fact that traditional brainstorming was refuted in studies done in 1958, soon after the practice was introduced. He cites later studies that seem to significantly improve the output of brainstorming sessions. There are two ways to increase output.
1. Ban the “no criticism” rule
While many thought that avoidance of criticism would encourage full participation. The discouraging of discussion cause participants to be less engaged with each other. At Pixar, their high creative output is due to the open and frank discussion of ideas.
2. Introduce disruptive thinking
Brainstorming is more open and ideas of a larger scope are produced when the participants are exposed to a moment of dissent, even when the dissent is wrong. In the study, participants were shown some colors and were asked to name them. In one group a plant, early on would say pink when red was shown. The other had participants name the colors accurately. In a subsequent creative exercise those that were exposed to the dissenting view were much more creative. Just the exposure to the one alternative view caused the participants to view things a little more flexibly.
I think that there are lots of techniques to introduce that dissent or disruptive thinking. This brings me to Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko. This book has dozens of different ways to get us looking at our problems in a new light.They have evocative names such as “False Faces”, “Cherry Split” and “Lotus Blossom”. Some are out there (get people thinking differently by removing shoes and allow others to try them on; I shudder at the thought), but most look worth trying out. One that I like is carefully listing the problem, stating any assumptions, and reversing each of the assumptions, and see what insights come to mind.
The book unabashedly to teach you to
Generate ideas at will
Find new ways to make money
Create new business opportunities
Become indispensible to your organization
and much more.
Do you have any favorite creativity techniques?