Sunday, August 1, 2010

Want to be creative? Don't brainstorm.

I'm sure many of us have had the thought before, "Oh, I wish I were more creative". I have. I'm also sure many, many of us have led or participated in a brainstorming session before. I also have. Apparently, these are both counter productive to being more creative, according to this article. To top it off, apparently since 1958 it has been proven that brainstorming doesn't work. I never knew about this. Did you?

In businesses, one of the common outcomes of operational research work is improving a particular process. We often start with understanding the problem, to mapping the process, and to building a model that reflects the current process. Eventually, to add value to the bottom-line, the model hopefully reveals some insights, and is the tool to test out certain ideas to support any process changes. Personally, it is often a pleasure to be involved from the beginning of problem understanding to the end, managing the recommended process changes, because as an OR consultant, you get to see your work to fruition.

Of course, to succeed in change management, the ideas should come from the stakeholders who live and breathe the process in question, and eventually own the solutions to be implemented. To get ideas from stakeholders for process improvement, the common technique is to gather stakeholders in a room and brainstorm on possible solutions.

Given the information presented in the article, to prepare for the brainstorming session, I take away that we should consider to:
  • present the problem to the group before the brainstorming session,
  • ask them to prepare and think about possible solutions that their colleagues or friends wouldn't have thought of for resolving the issues,
  • get them back in a room to discuss each other's ideas and prioritise on the ones to investigate feasibility and impact,
  • but before they start discussions, get them do some aerobics for 30 minutes if they are somewhat fit (half serious, but wouldn't that be fun?),
  • culture them with a youtube video about the weird and cool stuff in other countries (half serious, but wouldn't that lighten up the mood?),
  • facilitate the session with careful language to not instruct people to be creative
  • facilitate the session so the group moves back and forth between a couple topics to be able to take a break from focussing on just one solution
  • and perhaps not name it a brainstorming session, because it may be the forum that people associate with "get", which is counter productive, as per the article
Read it if you've got 3 minutes. Let me know what you take away from it that I've missed. (See the instant application?) The main points in the article to help someone to be more creative are:
  • Don't tell them to be creative
  • Get moving
  • Take a break
  • Reduce screen time
  • Explore other cultures
  • Follow a passion
  • Ditch the suggestion box

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