Brainstorming … a new approach!

Brainstorming“The classic approach most humans take when looking for solutions to problems is a procedure I call “Brain-draining”. It works like this: Humans sit in a room. One of them says, “Ready, set, create” With that, they desperately try to suck solutions from their heads. This SUCK method of creativity will shrivel your brain like a prune in the desert sun. It’s not good for you.” Doug Hall

Traditional brainstorming, where everyone shouts out their ideas and builds off one another can tend to be dominated by the “HiPPOs” (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). This leads to “Group-think” (where everyone is coerced into thinking the same), leading to fewer options being considered and ultimately lower quality decision-making.
General George Patton said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”

In a nutshell, Doug Hall recommended the following approach:

1. Create a multi-sensory stimulating environment to increase the number of creative ideas
2. Leverage diversity by surrounding yourself with people who think differently (different job roles, cultures, ages, backgrounds, thinking styles etc)
3. Get people to write down their own ideas in isolation first
4. Then ask people to present their written ideas to the group
5. Don’t worry about practicality of ideas in the initial stages, generate as many as possible
6. Suspend judgment. Drive out fear. Encourage dissension and debate
7. Make a decision and experiment on small-scale initially. Fail fast. Fail cheap.

Google Ventures uses a variant called, “Note and Vote” to identify solutions to problems. Here’s an overview of the article with some of my additional commentary added:

1. Note – Distribute paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes. Ask everyone to write down as many ideas as they can. Individually. Quietly. This list won’t be shared with the group, so nobody has to worry about writing down dumb ideas.
2. Self-edit – Set the timer for two minutes. Ask each person to review their list and pick 1 or 2 favorites. Individually. Quietly.
3. Share and capture – One at a time, each person shares their top 2 ideas with the group with no sales pitch or justification. Just get everyone to share their picks and move on. One person writes everybody’s ideas on a whiteboard or something similar.
4. Vote – Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard. Individually. Quietly. Everyone writes their vote on a piece of paper. Writing down your vote privately ensures that you won’t be swayed by other people’s opinions.
5. Share and display the votes – One at a time, each person states what they voted for. A short sales pitch may be permissible, but no one is allowed to change their vote. Each person must say what they wrote. Capture the votes on the whiteboard using dots or stars next to the ideas. Everyone has had the opportunity to share their opinion and feel heard, which helps to build employee engagement.
6. Make a decision – One person is named accountable for making the final decision. Usually that person is the team leader. In the event of a tie between options, the leader can cast a deciding vote. They may even choose to ignore the voting altogether. The leader’s decision is final.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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