How to doom creativity from the start: CT Tips #1

“Let’s start of by spending 20 minutes doing some brainstorming” is the curse of death for creativity. And here’s why.

 “Let’s start of by…”  You don’t start off by trying to be creativity. You start off by clarifying exactly what you want to achieve, what are the limitations on resources such as people, time and money, and also the scale of what it is you want to achieve.

An athlete doesn’t just start a race by running off in a direction. He prepares himself, his starting blocks, his position, and he understands exactly how he plans to run his race.

He also does some stretching before he starts the race, and this is something you should do too. If Usain Bolt just started sprinting without warming up, he’d most probably pull a muscle. Our brains are similar. We need to stretch them before we do any power thinking. A simple warm-up exercise will help us to unload the crap that is going on in our heads regarding our daily work. It will also get us into thinking at a higher and more creative level rather than at the expenses form, email sending and report filling in level we probably found ourselves doing in the previous hour.

 “…spending 20 minutes…”  Twenty minutes isn’t long enough to break through the ideas that have already been considered previously. When I run a 90-minute creative thinking session, the best ideas only start to come out after 40 minutes or so. If you really are committed to finding something new, this is the minimum length of time you need.

“…doing some brainstorming”   Brainstorming can sometimes give you useful outputs if you are looking for something interesting to buy for the office tea-lady’s retirement gift. If your issue is more important than this then use more powerful techniques. There are books full of them and in future posts I’ll explain some of the better ones. If you want to advance the quality of your creative thinking outputs then do anything other than brainstorming. The quickest and best way is to let people work in silence for 15 minutes and at the end to give feedback on their three most interesting ideas. Try it – I’m sure you’ll see better outputs than you typically get from any kind of brainstorming!

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