Jeffrey Baumgartner
 

Home     Books      Cartoons     Articles     Videos     Report 103 eJournal      Services     Game     ACT Questions      About      Contact


Share Facebook Twitter Google LinkedIn Pintarest StumbleUpon Email     Follow me Follow me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter    


 

Two ballons  floating in the sky;

 

 

Anticonventional Thinking and Implementation

One of the problems with brainstorming and its more formalised offspring, creative problem solving (CPS), is that while it has specific rules for generating lots of ideas, it is vague when it comes to the process of choosing one or more ideas to develop. As a result, the action taken at the end of a brainstorm is often a vague vote for the "best idea". Sadly, in most companies, government offices and other organisations, the best idea is not the most creative1 (see also article above). Moreover, voting for the best idea only creates a democratic trend towards the safest, most conventional, most familiar ideas2,3. Indeed, if you want to choose the most creative ideas to develop at the end of a brainstorm, I suspect you would have better results if you asked participants which ideas they would least like to implement. My guess is that this would identify the most creative ideas -- however, this is only guess.

As result of this vagueness, too many brainstorms and related idea collection initiatives result in a pot of unacted-upon ideas. Likewise, many companies' suggestion scheme and idea management software contain databases full of ideas that have not been developed further. At workshops and conferences, I sometimes ask the audience how many of them have participated in a brainstorm -- almost everyone's hand goes up. If I then ask how many of those brainstorms resulted in highly creative ideas being implemented, very few hands remain standing. Sometimes none.

If There Is Only One Idea...

In anticonventional thinking (ACT) which focuses on developing a big idea -- rather than lots of little ideas -- this is less of a problem. By questioning, debating, criticising and improving the big idea during the ideation phase, there is no need to select ideas at the end of the session. Moreover, the final step in ACT requires that participants prepare a step-by-step action plan defining what needs to be done to implement the idea and who should take charge off that step4. The result: people leave the event with a big idea for achieving a goal together with a list of steps they need to take in order to make it happen.

Proponents of brainstorming argue that it is only by generating lots of ideas that we can find the most creative idea. They say that by focusing on a single solution (or a very small number of solutions), ACT may cause us to miss out on a much more creative idea. My argument is twofold. Firstly, their argument is based on an assumption. I know of no tests demonstrating that more ideas are necessary for a higher level of creativity. Secondly, if the aim of an ideation event is to achieve a creative goal (solve a problem with creativity), then an implemented idea is far more valuable than 100 creative ideas stuck to a whiteboard or sitting in a database.

Moreover, ACT emulates more closely the way highly creative people like artists, writers, composers and research scientists work. They seldom do "brainstorming" in its traditional sense. For example, a group of scientists trying to find a cure for a specific condition will gather a lot of information; formulate a single hypothesis (rather than a lot of ideas) often through argument and debate; and prepare an action plan to test the hypothesis. If their experiment does not work, they learn from it, revise their hypothesis and try again. A theatre group wanting to stage a performance of Romeo and Juliet will discuss, argue and play with various ways to present the play until they settle on a particular theme. For example, they might decide to stage it in a modern, urban environment. Then they will build up ideas about scenery, scene setting, costumes and so on. Then various members of the group take responsibility for tasks (the director details each scene, the costume designer starts designing costumes, etc) In my experience, such creative collaborations do not brainstorm for lots of ideas and choose the best idea. Rather they have a creative discussion that eventually settles on a particular approach. Once this is set, it is developed through more ideas. Finally, when the concept becomes sufficiently solid, people take responsibility and get to work.

Compare

Consider that drama group and compare it to the last brainstorm you participated in. The drama group will inevitably perform Romeo and Juliet using ideas they built up during their preliminary conversation. What happened to the ideas submitted at your brainstorm?

If you want a creative thinking approach that leads to action, ACT is far more likely to succeed than brainstorming.

References

  1. V S Gerlach, Schutz, Baker, Mazer, (1964) "Effects of Variations in Test Directions on Originality Test Response", Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 55 No 2, pp 79-84.
  2. “Experimental Study of Inequality and Unpredictability in an Artificial Cultural Market”; by
    Matthew J. Salganik,1,2* Peter Sheridan Dodds,2* Duncan J. Watts; Science 311, 854 (2006); DOI: 10.1126/science.1121066 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/311/5762/854.pdf -- PDF document)
  3. “Collaborative Fixation: Effects of Others’ Ideas on Brainstorming” by Nicholas W. Kohn1* and Steven M. Smith; Applied Cognitive Psychology; 29 March 2010 (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123329584/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0)
  4. F. de Sousa (2012) "What if you change IWWMI into WASNT?" http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/wasnt.php?subject_code=1

 

Want to Discuss This With Me?

If so, get in touch. I'd love to chat about it with you!



If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your followers:


Share Facebook Twitter Google LinkedIn Pintarest StumbleUpon Email     Follow me Follow me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter    






More Articles


Cartoon: Leading Diverse Teams
Leading Diverse Teams
Diverse teams are more innovative and smarter than homogeneous ones. But, they are also harder to manager. Here are some tips. -- Read the article...



Cartoon: Respectful Questioning
Respectful Questioning
Political and social debate has become too divisive. To find creative solutions to big problems, we need an alternative: respectful questioning -- Read the article...



Cartoon: Questions you should ask when an innovative project fails
Questions you should ask when an innovative project fails
You can learn a lot from the failure of an innovative project, but you need to ask the right questions. Here are those questions. -- Read the article...



Cartoon: Business Should Be More Fun
Business Should Be More Fun
Make your business more fun and see improved creativity, more innovation, reduced stress and more benefits. Here's how to do it. -- Read the article...



Cartoon: Unmarketing the Competition
Unmarketing the Competition
A look at creative, but unethical dirty trick marketing campaigns designed to damage the competition -- Read the article...



Cartoon: Imaginativefulness and the Fisherman
Imaginativefulness and the Fisherman
What does a fisherman wearing a cycling helmet have to do with imaginativefulness? Quite a lot, it seems. -- Read the article...


More articles...

 


 

 

Return to top of page


Share Facebook Twitter Google LinkedIn Pintarest StumbleUpon Email     Follow me Follow me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter    

 

Creative Jeffrey logo

Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium