Productive Brainstorming Sessions

Here are some rules to ensure a productive brain storming session:

1. Encourage all ideas however foolish they may sound at first. Criticism, or sarcasm or lack of interest, no matter how subtle will quickly stamp out enthusiasm for innovative thinking. Managers are taught to be quick, critical and judgmental. It is important to turn that off.

2. Record all ideas. The great Walt Disney’s brainstorming sessions included a large bulletin board where all idea cards were pinned and photographed to be used in future sessions.

3. Build on others’ ideas using developmental thinking. Tell your teammate three things you like about his idea and then give him an itemized response on your areas of concern

4. Select a “problem owner” for the session who will facilitate and encourage discussion without dominating. Bosses are the worst group leaders.

5. Use creativity tools.

6. Bring in people from different backgrounds. Bring in customers.

7. Make the session happy, enjoyable, fun.

Thinking Tip:

Occasionally, let your “stupid monitor” down, play the fool, and see what crazy ideas you can come up with.

The Process Of Creativity

The process that leads to the moment of discovery, invention and creativity has five parts:

Ø Problem Statement

Ø Idea Generation

Ø Incubation

Ø Implementation.

Ø Analysis

Problem Statement

To state the problem is the most difficult part of creative problem solving. Very often we state symptoms of the problems and end up wasting scarce resources chasing the illusionary “golden deer of the Epics”. Management then becomes so emotionally committed to the wrong path that we can end up moving faster and faster along the wrong road. It is like a man who drills an oil well in a bad spot. More and more money is spent with no resulting strike. But those involved refuse to fill up the unproductive well and move on to a better location. They continue throwing good money after bad, because they do not want to agree that a mistake had been made initially.

At one of my early creativity laboratories for mothers, one of the participants said “My problem is how to get my son to eat eggs for breakfast”. A rigorous analysis of the problem uncovered the real quandary, “How to get my son to eat a nutrious breakfast?” The restatement of the problem enabled the mother to give the child a variety of food ranging from cheese and idlis to cornflakes, instead of forcing the child to eat the hated eggs. Redefining the problem statement is the most challenging part of the process as all of us who have struggled with the task of arriving at a clear hypothesis, know.

Problem : How to build a better mousetrap?

Question : Why do you want to build a mouse trap?

Answer :To kill mice.

Question :Why do you want to kill mice?

Answer :To prevent from eating food grains and spreading disease.

Question : So what is the problem?

Answer : How to keep mice out of my environment.

The restatement of the problem opens up possibilities of tackling mice through the use of gas, poison, biological methods and improving hygiene, instead of the being fixated on upgrading the architecture of the mousetrap.

The Chinese handled this problem by offering money to all those who handed over the tails of mice to authorities. This was a smart psychological solution which helped China to overcome the mouse menace which was resulting in the loss of 30% o their good grain stocks.

Ideas imported from other fields can totally transform your company. In a Creativity Lab conducted for an internationally acclaimed company dealing in printing of tea bags, the problem was maintenance of dedicated machines. The expensive machines were often handled clumsily, resulting in damage, breakdowns and loss. To counteract this the “Metaphor” tool was used.

Problem: How to get workmen to treat machines well?

Step 1

What do you treat well? Perhaps your first motorbike, which you love.

Step 2

What do you do for this motorbike? Treat it like someone you love.

Step 3

How do you treat someone you love?

1. You learn everything about them

2. You lavish attention on them.

3. You listen to them

4. You keep their environment clean and beautiful – you respect them.

Step 4

Now apply the above to the machine. Several approaches emerge.

Ø Take photographs of the individual with the machine.

Ø Name the machine

Ø Train workmen to know the machine in detail.