ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘brainstorming’

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 »

Like to Read More about Creativity, Brands, Retail and Design?

Posted by Plish on September 10, 2013

Occasionally I get asked if I write at other blogs.

The short answer is ‘yes.’

The longer answer is this blog post.

Below you’ll find two other sites that I blog at (and one resource site).  Most of the posts are different content from what I write here.  The below blogs are amazing resources and I frequent them often.

The Next Big Design

This blog is about marketing, branding, design, creativity and culture.  Some great articles.  This is also a portal for FUSE (which incidentally is a mindblowing conference!)

 

Shopper360

This blog is about retail, understanding, and taking action on research of consumer behavior. It is the main blog for the Shopper Insights in Action Conference which I covered this year.

 

SlideShare

Feel free to check out the presentations I’ve put there.  Here’s my most recent, a series of concept maps I drew up ‘on the fly’ during the above mentioned Shopper Insights in Action Conference.  If you’ve got questions, please let me know!

 

In addition to the above locations, you can always visit the links in the right info bar under “My Other Sites”.  You can also just Google me. :)

If there’s anything else you’d like to see more of here, or any of the other sites, please let me know.  I’d love to hear about your creativity and innovation challenges – I love ideas, empowering others to come up with ideas, and making ideas reality.

Let’s keep in touch!

 

 

Posted in Brands, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, Research, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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 »

Holistic ‘Brain’storming – Harnessing the Body (and the Senses) in the Creative Process

Posted by Plish on August 18, 2011

We have a tendency to take our body’s for granted.   As a result we often ignore the connections between mind and body that have evolved to become part of the human condition.  For example, this article points out that when people think about the past they lean backwards, when they think about the future they lean forwards.

Now think about brainstormings you’ve been in.  How many people lean back in their chairs when trying to come up with ideas?  Sure, you can say that people are relaxing, and I’ll be the first to admit that a relaxed mind is a creative mind.  But, having people leaning forward in their chairs is easy to do, and if done in a playful, relaxed way, can’t hurt.

Is a topic important?  Perhaps having heavy-looking objects scattered around the room, or even having people hold heavy objects, can portray the importance of what is being discussed.  

Want people to feel warm?  Have them remember good experiences. 

Have them hold warm drinks  and chances are they’ll view fictional characters as friendly and warm (and vice-versa with holding cold drinks).

If you bring munchies into the meeting and you want participants to think in a more creative (versus analytical) fashion, serving a bowl of a trail mix may help.  Want participants to be more analytical in their thinking?  Bring in a bowl of nuts, one of raisins, one of chocolate bits….you get the idea.  (For more on creativity and our senses see this article.)

The point is, people are more than just brains.  People are holistic, embodied beings and when the body is brought into the creative process, amazing things can happen.

Give it a try, you don’t have anything to lose…

…but a whole bunch to gain!

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, The Senses, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Environments and Creativity – Why Not in Political Discourse?

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2011

A little over a year ago I blogged on optimizing your environment for creative output.  I also wrote about the pros and cons of open office plans.

I wanted to share this article from today’s Wall Street Journal that touches on both of the above topics.  One amazing tidbit:

…Researchers at Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health tracked 60 white-collar workers at a government facility in the central U.S. Some had been randomly assigned to an old office building, with low ceilings and loud air-conditioners. The rest got to work in a recently renovated space filled with skylights and open cubicles.

For the next 17 months, the scientists tracked various metrics of emotional well-being, such as heart-rate variability and levels of stress hormone. They discovered that people working in the older building were significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work. The scientists said the effect was big enough to be a potential risk factor for heart disease.

All this got me thinking about how early philosophers and politicians carried out their discussions in open air forums, surrounded by fresh air and blue sky.  They dreamed of ways of improving the world, becoming better people, and their imaginations would soar. 

We are indebted to their innovative thinking still, today.

I wonder how much more creative and effective our elected officials would be if their sessions were in an open air environment, without rows of desks and aisles, no left or right…

Their work might actually have the freedom to soar,

and we, likewise…

Posted in Architectural Design, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Politics, The Senses, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One Way of Unsticking Brainstorming Sessions

Posted by Plish on December 10, 2010

 
 
It’s the silence.  Nobody has anything to say and you can almost smell  burning neurons as people twist and twirl things in their heads while they try and be original…

Your brainstorming session has hit a brick wall…

How do you get out of it, or around it – or through it?

One way is to change the perspective of the participants.

What does that mean?

All problems/solutions exist in some type of context.   The problem-solvers/solution-finders usually inhabit the same space.  It makes sense, right?  A problem with customer service in a bank will be solved by employees at the bank; improving the design of a surgical device is done by clinicians, designers and engineers in the medical realm; figuring out the best meal for a family dinner is the responsibility of those in the household.

“The secret of all effective originality in advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships.” – Leo Burnett, The advertising father of The Marlboro Man, Toucan Sam, the Jolly Green Giant, Morris the Cat, Tony the Tiger, and the Seven Up ‘spot’ among other things.

We can replace the word ‘advertising’ in the above quote with the word, ‘brainstorming sessions’ and it’s just as apropos.  It’s about finding new relationships and one of the easiest way to do this is for  idea generators to leave the space the problem inhabits. By doing this the solutions will necessarily come from a different direction and novel relationships will be made. 

For example, let’s say that a team is thinking up ways of improving customer service in banks.  Instead of looking at it from a banking perspective, pretend you are all hippies and ask, “In what ways would a hippie improve the experience  in a bank?”  Some of the resulting conversation might look something like this:

” Incense- we need patchouli  in the air,”

“Flowers, we’d need flowers, maaaaan..”

“What about music?  A guy playing an acoustic guitar would be sweet, man…waiting in line is such a drag…”

“Music is about righteousness and truth..where’s the righteousness and truth in here?”

“And love…I don’t feel love. ”

“How can anyone feel anything with the colors in here? It’s all dark and heavy, and this chair, augh! It’s too heavy and cold- give me the floor (she says pouring out of her chair and on to the floor).”

There’s an entirely different perspective now about what constitutes a bank, what the lobby should look like, smell like, feel like.  Sure, maybe patchouli isn’t the way to go, but the brainstorming session has taken on an entirely new direction and ideas are flowing where only minutes ago there was  uncomfortable silence.

So, next time you’re stuck in a brainstorming session that’s stuck, try becoming someone else outside the context of the problem space.   You might be surprised at the results.

Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Lateral Thinking, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Alone and Need Ideas? Try This Tool

Posted by Plish on September 10, 2010

There is something to be said for the dynamic that occurs when people can engage and bounce ideas off of each other.

Sometimes though, we need to come up with ideas on our own.  One great tool for this is the Reverse Dictionary.

The human mind is great at making connections between disparate concepts, at building off of metaphor.  A Reverse Dictionary provides idea fuel for the brain. 

The best way to learn about this is to try it yourself.   To get the ball rolling though, I’m going to walk through an example. 

Say I’m looking for a way to decrease problems in nursing homes.  I entered in three words on the main page: ‘loneliness, mistakes, illness’.  Three terms that define what many people in nursing homes go through. 

The results are here.  When I look at these 100 terms I see some  that are curious, others that I have no idea what they are, some that seem totally unrelated.  Those are the terms that I follow up with and investigate further.  I’ll list some of those here:

1. Iatrogenesis – A fancy way of saying adverse effects to treatments. Things like drug interactions, errors, negligence all fall under this term.  I thought it was fascinating that this is the first term in the list dealing with problems in nursing homes.

47. Toc H – I had no idea what this was so I looked it up here.  It’s an international charity movement started during World War I.  The fundamental beliefs of this organization are:  Fellowship (To Love Widely); Service (To Build Bravely); Fairmindedness (To Think Fairly); and the Kingdom of God (To Witness Humbly).  There’s something there to build upon.

69. Zero Defects – Speaks for itself.

33,53, 76, 94, 85. Redgrave, Radclyffe Hall, Finlandia Prize, Tom Courtney, Glen Ponder – All deal with the Arts.  Getting solutions to nursing home problems from the Arts?  I like it…

95. abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz – A string of letters, it doesn’t mean anything.  It’s confusing but it contains all the letters of the alphabet; it would mean something if it was reorganized and cleaned up.  It makes me think about gleaning useful information from elderly communication, of proper interpretation of symptoms, language and circumstances.

99. Indian Sex Stone –  “The American field archeologist’s term for a natural rock that is mistaken for an artifact, usually a preform or bola stone, in the field. Most such mistakes are made by inexperienced field crew members, who learn quickly not to make such errors.”  Wow… a lot to ponder here and it ties in with #5. 

100. Sam the Robot – “The only robot on Sesame Street. He always tries to do things right, and even insists that he is perfect, but he always does things wrong. Typical mistakes of his would be drawing a circle instead of a square or pouring coffee on the ground.”  Another Wow!  Are there Sam the Robots among the caretakers?  How do we deal with this type of psychological type?

Now that I have these concepts, I can delve into them further, learn more about them and let this information percolate in my conscious and  subconscious.  I can use these as metaphors for coming up with even more ideas for ways of addressing problems in nursing homes.

Now, give it a try yourself and let me know how it works!

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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