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Archive for the ‘Traditional Brainstorming’ Category

When You Need Ideas, Make Sure You Invite This Collaboration Partner

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2018

I’ve been reading artist David Byrne‘s book, “How Music Works.” For those of you who don’t know, he was the founding member of the band, Talking Heads.

It’s a fascinating book, part history, part autobiography, part music science, and totally fascinating.

Sharing His Creative Process

Byrne is wonderfully introspective when it comes to his songwriting process.  He clearly pays attention to himself when creating, which, incidentally, on its own is a good thing to practice while being creative.

While the book is, in itself, an exploration of his creativity, a few of the pages delve into the specifics of his songwriting.  I found much of what he wrote resonates with my own songwriting and the creative process in general.

A Little Bubbly

One of the most powerful things Byrne does, and perhaps the most difficult, is listen to his subconscious and let it bubble to the surface.

As he listens to musical frameworks, he uses them as springboards to lyrics.  He does this by singing passionate jibberish and writing it all down.  In essences, he’s sketching.

Stop Making Sense

He allows emotions, memories, sounds, patterns, to express themselves, even if they don’t make sense! Eventually those sung sounds will be transliterated into actual words and music, but not in the early stages.  Instead, he simply trusts that those sounds, the lyrical structure, all things being articulated, are connected to the music on a deep, visceral level.

However, all this is for naught if he judges his work too quickly.  He does his best to

Suspend judgement!

This is something that I always drive home to people when I am moderating brainstorming sessions.

Don’t judge!

Judging the ideas is for a later time, after the various ideas can be explored for their apropos-ness to the music.  For people who are innovating, the ideas should resonate on multiple levels, not just the physical, but the emotional as well.

“I try not to prejudge anything that occurs to me at this point in the writing process – I never know if something that sounds stupid at first, will in some soon-to-emerge lyrical context make the whole thing shine.  So no matter how many pages get filled up, I try to turn off the internal censor.”(Italics mine; pp. 219-220)

This can’t be overstated: What seems stupid at the beginning might be the key at a later time.

What if the internal censor doesn’t cooperate? (“…the conscious mind might be thinking too much.”)

“Exactly at this point…I most want and need surprises and weirdness from the depths.”

His goal here is to “distract the gatekeepers.” Go jog, cook, walk, drive, do whatever so that the conscious mind is occupied with something else, just enough to let the goodies come through.

Again, make sure you have a recorder, sketchpad, camera, clay, whatever, so that you can record these gems as they “gurgle up.”  Just a snippet of these pearls could be enough to connect everything and make the whole project come together.   What was once a garbled mess can become a pleasing coherent whole.

Bottom Line: Collaborate!

“With whom?” you may ask.

With yourself!  Access the emotions,  knowledge,  patterns, experiences and feelings of all that you are!  Each of us is a wonderful repository of so much more than we realize.  Just because we don’t think we remember something doesn’t mean that something we saw, heard, smelled, felt, tasted, learned, or even thought we experienced, didn’t leave a valuable experiential nugget in our beings.

Our imaginations and our experiences can work together to enable us to design a better future.  (For a fascinating article on how we imagine the past and the future in similar ways read, “Remembering the Past to Imagine the Future: a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.”) We just have to get out of our own ways.

Are More Better?

As I’ve written before, there are certain conditions in which small groups are good for collaboration, especially when participants are able to share their own unique perspectives and experiences.  However, at the root of that multi-person collaboration is the ability for each individual to collaborate with themselves, to not censor themselves.   Solo-brainstorming is indeed powerful! (See “Why Groups Are Less Effective than Their Members: On Productivity Losses in Idea-Generating Groups“)

But you need to be you.

Take these tips from David Byrne and internalize them.  Listen to yourself – your subconscious.  Access who you are. Sketch. Suspend judgement. Explore. Look for resonance between concepts. (Sometimes they’re in that order, sometimes not.  😉 )

Regardless of what you’re designing, your innovations will be more creative the more you’re willing to collaborate with yourself.

Here’s to better solutions and a better world filled with better music 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, product design, Service Design, Sketching, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want a Productive Brainstorm? Here Are Some Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Plish on November 24, 2015

Came across a post at USA Today College: “5 tips for a Productive Brainstorming Session.”

I enjoy reading different people’s approaches to brainstorming.   However, this one had me screaming at the computer screen: “NO!”  After which I went to a different page, relaxed, came back the next day and re-read it.

Nope, no difference – still not the best advice.

Actually, to be fair, it’s a mixture of good and bad advice.  (These tips seem more apropos for a design review than for a brainstorming)

Let’s take a look at the 5 tips and look at their value.

1.Create the Right Environment – Actually, this paragraph gives good advice:  “Select a time to meet when you know you and your group members will have enough energy to think creatively … Choose a space conducive to creative thinking: a clean, quiet place with natural light and comfortable seating. Maintain that calm, creative environment by asking all group members to silence their phones and put them away to avoid being distracted by a text or Twitter update. 

2.Establish Structure – “Set a time limit for your meeting depending on how much work needs to get done so that everyone stays on task…Also, be sure to assign one group member the role of moderator…Choose a person who knows well both the purpose of the project and the personalities of everyone in the group.”  This is all pretty good advice. It’s crucially important that the moderator not be someone who is simply looking for confirmation of his/her idea.  This person really has to have the project’s success at heart.

3. Prioritize Your Goals – “Once some order is established, the moderator should outline a general overview of the project to help get everyone’s brains in the right place. After the project is sketched out, the moderator should clearly state the goal of the brainstorming session. Your group’s brainstorming session goal should be SMART—that is: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.  Avoid making overarching goals. For instance, if your project is for an environmental planning course requiring you to design an urban space, don’t simply say your goal is to: “Make the best urban design plan.” Make a SMART goal, like: “Design an urban space that is comfortable, functional, and eco-friendly in one week.””  This is the first tip that really got me going. If you’re giving people background, and the expected goal, as part of the brainstorming session, you’re already too late.  People need to understand the challenge, and they need time to think about it.  I realize this is for a college column, so giving people a long term heads up isn’t always possible.  But give people at least a day! (Give them a week of more if possible.  If you really can’t give a day, give a few hours to think about the challenge)   There’s very little hope of getting good output if your input is hurried and not reflected upon.  (Remember: Garbage in=Garbage out) Also, the brainstorming statement shouldn’t be a project statement.  Making it SMART isn’t a bad thing per se, but it would be much better to say, “In what ways can a comfortable, functional, ecofriendly urban space be designed?”  It would be even better to break it up into subsections, brainstorm on Comfort, Functionality and Ecofriendliness by dedicating time to each trait individually.  Remember, if you’re trying to get across a river, your problem statement shouldn’t say, “In what ways can we build a bridge over the river in a week?”, but instead, “In what ways can we get across the river in a week’s time?”  Or, “In what ways can we get 1000 people from this shore to the other shore?”  Leave some wiggle room.  Too specific and every solution will be a variation of a bridge.

4.  Write it Out – “Bring notepads, sticky notes, and/or a large whiteboard to your meeting. Ensure everyone has the opportunity to write down—or draw—his or her ideas. Jot down or sketch out every idea—not just those that sound best at the time—so that your group can build off others’ ideas as your brainstorming session progresses.”  Good points about drawing and writing!

5. Ask QuestionsWhen it comes to brainstorming, cooperation and collaboration go hand in hand. But if during a brainstorming session no one challenges any ideas, innovation is unlikely to occur. Agreeing on some things is good, but in general, it’s important to avoid group complacency—called groupthink—with every idea that is presented during a brainstorming session.  Avoid groupthink by assigning one group member the role of devil’s advocate. It’s this person’s job to raise at least one counterargument to every idea the group agrees on. These counterarguments shouldn’t be attacks, but should raise important questions about idea feasibility, integrity, and relevance that help move your brainstorming forward in a positive direction.” NOOOO! (The red highlight is mine – it means WT? )This one REALLY got me going.  Yes, innovation can occur in response to questioning, but the brainstorming is not the place for it.  You want free-flow of ideas, not critiquing.  If you give people time to understand the challenge and give them time to prepare and to brainstorm in private before the brainstorming session, you’ll get ideas that are somewhat baked.  You may not get the best idea until everyone has bounced their ideas off of each other, but you’ll do much better if you DON’T have a devil’s advocate.  Leave that for an after brainstorming tactical meeting: discussing the who, how, what, when, how much, etc’s, of implementing the best ideas.   If every idea is picked apart as part of the brainstorming meeting, I guarantee people will start self-censoring themselves during the brainstorm, and that’s the last thing you want happening.  As for Groupthink- read about the solutions here.  Again, if people can brainstorm on their own before the actual meeting, and people are encouraged to share during the meeting, groupthink is less likely to occur. It’s the moderator’s job to keep everyone involved and keep judgment to a minimum.  Worry about groupthink when you are in your post brainstorming tactical meeting,  THEN question.

So, what rules should be followed?

Here are the 7 rules that I post on the wall every time I lead a brainstorm:

  1. Every person has equal worth
  2. Withhold judgment of ideas (This includes your own!)
  3. Go for quantity
  4. Go for wild ideas
  5. Build on the ideas of others
  6. One conversation at a time
  7. Be visual, draw and prototype

If you’d like a Poster Size PDF of the above rules, click here .

As I’ve alluded to above, Brainstorming shouldn’t be just a one time event, it should be a three part process of Preparation, Brainstorming, and Follow-Up.  (Incidentally, all three of the phases usually include some type of brainstorming 🙂 )

Do you have any rules that you follow when brainstorming?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Best Practices, brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Swimming in Wonderful Robin Williams Streams of Consciousness

Posted by Plish on August 21, 2014

When I conduct brainstormings (and even when I’m looking for ideas) I find that one of the biggest enemies is the internal censor that each of us has.  I’m sure you’ve succumbed to that voice.

You come up with an idea and before you’ve even spent time examining it, you’ve jettisoned the thought:

“That’s stupid!”

“That’ll never work!”

“How could I have thought that?”

“That thought came out of me? No one can ever know I thought THAT!”

One of the amazing gifts that Robin Williams had was his ability to turn off the censor.  He trusted himself, and even when riffing with others, he allowed himself to follow the promptings of lesser ideas knowing that greater ideas were coming. The results were nothing short of astounding and amazingly hilarious.  While Williams’ verbal stream didn’t seem to even afford him time to breathe, his audience couldn’t breathe because they were laughing so hard.

In the world of comedy, following the stream of consciousness is considered acceptable because, well, it’s comedy.  However, in the corporate world, such thinking is considered out of place, too bold, not politically correct – perhaps even offensive.

Unfortunately, when the censor kicks in, creativity, and perhaps the next seed of a groundbreaking innovation, gets kicked out.

People have a tendency to think that those ideas judged as ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ should just be jettisoned and forgotten.  Yes, not all ideas are ready for prime time; however these ideas are essential to the creative process – a process that builds upon that which came before.  Ignore what comes before and there’s nothing to build upon.

Robin Williams lived this brilliantly.  Not everything that Robin said was earth-shatteringly funny, but just around the corner, rest assured, mirth was imminent.

Creative thought in the corporate world follows the same process.  Not every idea is worthy of patent or should be invested in.  But, if the ideas are built upon, eventually, things will come together in a wonderful way.

So, how do we train ourselves to be creative in this way?

Practice!!!

Listen to all ideas as they bubble up!  Things pop up for a reason!!  Write everything down. Sketch!  Play with the ideas!

The idea that seems totally unusable may provide the seed that enables you, or someone else, to make a connection to an even better idea!    In my own experience, some great ideas have surfaced after someone had the courage to share a half-baked idea.  This simple and profound act of sharing provided the building blocks for others.  If the internal censor would’ve won out, these breakthrough ideas would never have been born. 

Remember this next time you’re coming up with ideas, alone or with others. Better yet, even if you’re not coming up with ideas, examine your thoughts as they are percolating to the surface. Learn to get comfortable with the flow; the more at ease you feel with the stream’s current, the less likely you’ll be to throw out ideas as they bubble up.

I love the following Robin Williams interview with Craig Ferguson.   The two of them highlight the above process – they both just grab an idea, follow it to the next, and continue the process with wonderfully entertaining results.    Notice how certain ideas become seeds for the next.  This is improvisation at its finest.  

In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Robin Williams, for creating so many wonderful, bubbling streams of consciousness, and for being a part of the Stream of which we all swim.  Tragic circumstances helped push you into different waters.  May you find the New Waters fine.  While ours are impoverished by your passing, they are also forever enriched!

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Great Creative Minds, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brainstorming Using Google Docs

Posted by Plish on August 6, 2014

I’ve never been a big fan of Google Docs.  Mostly because the majority of my clients don’t like having stuff in Google’s Cloud.  Nevertheless, I do see the value in having a common, online portal for collaboration.

So, when I saw this post at CrossWebIdeas on using Google Docs as a brainstorming hub, I was intrigued and excited.  It reminded me of days of yore when I used Posterous (remember Posterous?)  in a similar way.

It’s a pretty simple process actually: Upload a core document/drawing that functions as a seed to start the brainstorm and have people join in whenever they want to add or modify the document.

That’s pretty much it!

Check out how Google Docs was used for the ‘Novel In A Day’ Project.

One of the main things I want to look at is anonymity.  Some people are intimidated by other people’s personalities and/or status.  They are more likely to share their thoughts in low visibility situations.  Granted, there is some distance afforded via a web interface, but it’s still not perfect.  If Person A intimidates Person B, and Person A already has expressed an opinion in the forum, Person B may not write anything at all if it seems to contradict Person A.

I also prefer the power of drawing to text, so Google Drawings could be used instead of Google Docs, but, entering text on a laptop is much easier than creating a picture, so that’s the price paid for smoother collaboration.

Bottom Line: Using Google Docs in this way is fresh and innovative, and with the right group, I’ll give it a try.

What do you think?  Is this something you’ll do or have done?  If so, please share your thoughts!!

Thanks again to Don McLeman and Triberr for bringing this to my attention!

Posted in Co-Creation, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tips for Innovative Problem Solving, or, How to Shovel Snow Without a Shovel

Posted by Plish on February 27, 2013

This past evening, just shy of midnight, I was getting ready to head outside for my second round of shoveling.  I had already shoveled a good 7 inches of snow around 5pm and it looked like another 5 or so had fallen since.

I glanced at the TV. A warning  scrolled across the bottom: more precipitation on the way and a caution to people who were going to shovel the heavy stuff. So, instead of heading outside, I paused and turned my shoveling into a small, innovative, problem solving project.

My goal was ultimately to remove snow from the walkways and from around the cars, so I asked: “In what ways can I remove the snow from walkways?” (Notice, I didn’t say, “In what ways can I shovel the snow?” My goal is snow removal, not necessarily shoveling.)

I then looked at what types of things were available to help me accomplish my goal:

  • snow
  • me
  • shovels
  • air
  • trees
  • sidewalk
  • cars
  • A house and garage full of tools, equipment, books, clothes
  • cell phone

Since the snow is heavy, ultimately, if I want to make my life easier, I would rather not shovel.

I give myself a provocation:

In what ways can I remove snow without using a shovel?

I look at what’s left: Snow, me and the house/garage/etc..

Picking up the snow doesn’t sound very easy. Hmmmm….

The snow is wet, and sticky, and sticky snow sticks to itself.  So, if I make a snowball, I can roll it and it’ll pick the snow up as it goes – I’ll clean the walkways and dig out the cars and never lift a shovel!

In the end, I’ll just have a giant snowball, or I can make multiples and make a snowman – I’ll clean the walks and have fun doing it!

So, I bundled up, went outside and started rolling.

The problem became apparent right away. Thought the snow was heavy, it didn’t stick together as well as it did earlier today. It wasn’t picking up the snow very efficiently. As you can see from the below pic,  the area where I started rolling is not terribly clean – it was only about 30% efficient, though, as the snowball got bigger, it got more efficient.

Lake Villa-20130227-00790aa

I continued rolling.  It started doing better. It was cleaning up around the cars pretty well.

It eventually started getting pretty darn big, and it was getting harder to get the traction to roll it.  I decided to roll it back into the yard.  I tried posing with it on my shoulders ‘Atlas’ Style, but alas, it was too heavy as you’ll see in the pic below.

snowball1

After extracting myself I calculated that the snowball was the result of approximately 250ft to 300ft of rolling. Not terribly efficient but I had the beginnings of a kick *** snowman.  I tried rolling the next part of the body, but unfortunately the snow was sticking even less effectively than before.  I would have to abandon this route and go back to the shovel.

While this project wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped, it was enjoyable and it highlights the main steps that should be taken when trying to solve a problem in an innovative manner.

  1. Define what it is you’re trying to accomplish. (Remove Snow) Play with framings here.  Don’t be too vague but don’t be too specific.
  2. Start the ideation process with the phrase, “In what ways can we (Insert task from Step #1)” (In what ways can we remove snow?) If you start the phrase with “How can I…?” it isn’t as provocative.
  3. List everything that is present. These can be tools, objects, things in the environment. Interestingly enough, very often people forget to list themselves or any objects being acted upon.
  4. Use another provocation to get the ideas going.  A good one is to remove something essential from the list.  In my case, I removed the shovel and forced myself to think of ways to remove snow without using a shovel.
  5. Brainstorm
  6. Try an idea
  7. Assess effectiveness
  8. Modify to make it more effective
  9. Go back to #4 or #5 if needed

That’s it!

EPILOGUE: Oh, and this morning we received another 3-4 inches so I used the same technique to “shovel” and finish what I started last night, as well as create a small “King of the Mountain with Subjects” .  It worked alittle better than last night, but I still had to shovel…

Yet all is well in the Kingdom of Snow…

supremelyhappy

The Supremely Happy Snowman

The King of the Mountain and Subjects
The King of the Mountain and Subjects

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New, Transparent Paint to Create Whiteboards…Anywhere…

Posted by Plish on May 23, 2012

 

A few years back, I blogged about IdeaPaint’s Whiteboard paint.

Now they’ve gone one glorious step further:

CLEAR Whiteboard Paint!

That is correct.  You don’t have to change the colors of your walls, or any other surfaces, for that matter.  Just cover them with this transparent, writable glaze and you’re ready to go.

There really is no excuse for not having a whiteboard space.

Thank you, IdeaPaint!

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, idea generation, imagination, Sketching, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How Not to Brainstorm – Lessons from Suburgatory

Posted by Plish on April 20, 2012

If you ever find yourselves in brainstorms like this one, drop me a line…

Posted in culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to be Disruptively Innovative? Passéjineer™

Posted by Plish on January 28, 2012

You’ve analyzed the market, researched customer needs, and you’ve come up with some great ideas for new products.  Shiny surfaces, high tech interface, and best of all, everything required to develop it is within your core competencies.

But…

Does the customer really need a $400 dollar system to do V,W,X,Y,Z in a market space where competition sells $430 dollar systems that do X,Y,Z?

“But ours is shinier, faster, cooler and does waaaay more!!!”

Maybe, but what if your product was still cool because it does X and Y unbelievably well (but it doesn’t have V, W and Z) , and oh, you can make the same, or greater, percentage margin,  and sell it for $90?

Time to Passéjineer™.

(Origins:  Passé + Engineer  = No longer fashionable or in wide use,  out-of-date, outmoded + To design, arrange, or create, by skillful or artful means)

Passéjineering is the process of understanding customer needs and then using the passé  – older technologies, expired patents, older or simpler design paradigms, simple mechanical/electrical systems – to do the jobs that the customer needs done.

The goal is to strip the product down, redesign the supertech so that it does what is essential; passéjineer it so it does the few indispensible things exquisitely well and for a fraction of the cost. In short, passéjineering is an exercise in the synthesis of new product offerings with simpler/older technology and essential customer needs.

It’s important to remember that ultimately,  it’s the customer’s needs that drive this process.

A perfect example of this is The Laundry Pod.  Someone who is single, living in an apartment and does small batches of laundry doesn’t really need a $500 washing machine.  The Laundry Pod fills a niche wonderfully, without the use of high technology and for less than a quarter of the costs.

Innovations are built on what has come before.  The tendency is usually to use the most recent rung in the ladder.  But, if you are willing to take a step back to those older rungs that haven’t been visited in quite some time, you might find yourself disrupting the market – passéjineering your way to profits.

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Not to Run a Brainstorming (And, How to Be True to Your Brand)

Posted by Plish on November 29, 2011

I was driving to a client today, and an ad for Duluth Trading Company came on the radio.  Duluth Trading prides itself on creating ingenious solutions for the working person while having a sense of humor advertising those products.  Some of those solutions include jeans that enable men to crouch without singing soprano, firehose cotton pants and shirts that fix plumber’s butt.  The latter is the focus of the below ad that spoofs a brainstorming session intent on solving the scourge of plumbers butt.  It’s an entertaining exercise in being true to your brand.

It’s also an example of how not to have a brainstorming.

What’s wrong with it?

Before you give it a listen, here are the rules I use for brainstorming sessions:

  1. Don’t judge. Every idea is equal.
  2. “Yes, and…” Build on the ideas of others (If you violate #1, this won’t happen)
  3. Encourage wild ideas (If you violate #1, this also won’t happen)
  4. Go for quantity of ideas
  5. Respect each person who’s speaking. One person speaks at a time – no interruptions. Each person is equal.
  6. Don’t just talk about ideas, sketch them up.  Articulating ideas by drawing (or building/prototyping!) helps concretize thoughts.  This also helps document the session and facilitates #2.
  7. Prepare for the brainstorming and then ideate before and after the team session.
  8. Stay on topic (the answer to “why are we brainstorming?”) but allow for #3 and if something seems too off track, invoke #2.

So give it a listen, and tell me what you think is wrong with this brainstorming:

 

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Looking for the Secret to Successful Problem Solving? Banish the “…but…”

Posted by Plish on August 27, 2011

Try this concept when problem solving, in brainstormings, in your personal life. 

It’ll work wonders.

Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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