The secret to succesful brainstorming is not to do it! Do something else instead that doesn’t waste people’s time.
Am I being harsh on brainstorming? Quite possibly – but it deserves it. After all, how many brainstorming sessions have you been involved in where nothing of real benefit was delivered? If you are running a creative session and have some people in the room who want to be creative – then don’t blow it by doing brainstorming. And here’s why.
Every creative session has a purpose or theme. It’s the reason why you got together in the first place – so you want people to give you ideas around this theme. And naturally, you want new ideas – not a regurgitation of old ideas.
Getting new ideas requires your brain to make fresh mental connections. Connections, links, associations, even deliberate misunderstandings – any mental joining that it hasn’t made before. These joinings are the first spark of a new idea. However, these new connections are extremely tenuous when you are making them.
You may have experienced this yourself when a new idea comes into your head and then you are momentarily distracted. During this brief distraction the new idea disappears somewhere. If you are quick you can sometimes drag it back by retracing your thought process, but often not – and the idea is lost forever.
Now the main problem with brainstorming is one of its key rules. Namely, that only one person at a time should be talking – and herein lies the problem. Because in my opinion, no-one should be talking at all. Not a word!
To me, silence is needed for great creative thinking. How can your mind be making a fresh connection around new thought stream ‘X’ when in the background is a loud voice talking about subject ‘Z’?
It’s hard to make these new connections anyway – but having your thought train continuously bombarded by somebody else’s issues is just a recipe for disaster. It’s like trying to watch a porn movie while assembling an Ikea furniture kit – neither gives you a satisfactory result.
I run many ideation sessions and use a range of techniques, most of which are done in silence. Some of them are ‘brain-calming’ techniques where the mind is in a relaxed state while others are ‘brain-boiling’ techniques where the techniques are quite frenetic in nature – but still done in silence. A frenetic silence may sound like an oxymoron, but that’s where the creativity comes in. The participants in my processes aren’t expecting it so by default they are mentally in a different space – which is fertile ground for new ideas.
I’ll tell you more about brain-calming and brain boiling techniques shortly.