The New Rules of Brainstorming Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Brainstorming. (2013). Leigh Thompson. Harvard Business School Press. New Rules • Developed based on research and years of experience. • Alex Osborn in Applied Imagination in 1953 invented word and basic concept of brainstorming. • He got most of it right. Osborn’s Rules 1. Express ideas openly – 2. 3. No evaluation/criticism Focus on quantity – 4. Don’t hold back, get crazy, childish As many ideas as possible Build on ideas of others (synergy) – Combine ideas Myths Developed • Groups are more creative than individuals. – People are pro-social and team oriented. • Get rid of rules, relax, no tension. • Brainstorm as a group first to get creative juices flowing. Research Busted Myths • Individuals more creative than groups. • Groups need guidelines, structure, and some pressure. • Brainstorm individually first, then in groups. – Individuals (and groups) need priming. • Stimulation of visuals, toys, phrases, props – expand thinking. Research • Brainstorm individually, then exchange ideas – a crucial part of creativity. • Two key elements in creativity – Attention/focus • Develop then exchange a lot of individual ideas before group meets, because a group often fixates on a few ideas and gets groups stuck, slows them down. – Incubation • By developing a lot of ideas individually, exchanging them, then waiting to meet in a group allows for the necessary incubation. Research • Myth – People should work close together in order to generate ideas. • No – privacy is important for initial idea generation (can focus better). – Idea generation works best in solitude … and with lots of priming. • Cave-and-commons workspace is best. Research • Groups can be pro-social, but… – Difficult to be unique or independent in a group. – Tendency to go along to get along. • Need some tension, pressure to keep focused, and to be unique, independent. Groups • Ideal group size is five. – Large groups get confusing, too much duplication, too much free riding. • Experienced facilitator must keep discussion focused, open, spirited. – Passionately attack the problem, but respect the people. • Fair, spirited fighting. – Don’t allow storytelling, explanations, or wallflowers. Groups • Use blackboard, whiteboards, flip charts to write everything down (memorialize ideas). – Take photos on iPad or phone. – Put in a boneyard or repository (Google Doc, wiki, blog) so group members can actively access ideas during, before, and after meetings. • Mood: Consistently positive and upbeat – Facilitator’s responsibility. Groups • Diversity is critical. – Don’t put friends together. • If possible, regularly involve the input of of outsiders who are devil’s advocates. • Conflict is OK – manage it. Group Problems • Going along with the crowd • Riding the bus without paying the fee (free riding) • Team superiority complex – 90% believe they are in the top quartile. • The tyranny of the average – Regress toward the mean – satisficing • Dumbing down (playing it safe to be popular) • Evaluation apprehension Group Problems • Cognitive interruptus (multitasking) – Fewer than 95% of people can multitask effectively (and 90% of people think they are in the 5%) – Takes a person seven minutes on average to recover from an interruption • Focus, focus, focus on generating a lot of ideas. • Being in a group requires a symphony of skills: Listening, speaking, taking turns, taking notes, and summarizing. Group Problems • Production blocking (time wasted while group members queue up and wait to take turns expressing their ideas) • Competing for attention • Simultaneous talking Making Groups Effective (And Avoiding Free Riders) • Don’t make team too big. • Assign roles. • Strengthen team cohesion. – – – – Team T-shirts Focus on shared goals Use same lingo Talk “we.” • Increase diversity – not too much homogeneity. Making Groups Effective • Craft a team charter. – A document written by all team members specifying the team mission and expectations they hold for one another. • People are less likely to renege on an agreement they agreed to in writing. Making Groups Effective • Cyberstorming – Google Docs, etc. – No fighting for attention, no production blocking • Brainwriting – Simultaneously and independently writing down ideas. No eye contact. Silence. Focus attention on idea generation. Making Groups Effective • Raise expectations. – Brainstorm for ten minutes, rest, then double the number of ideas expected. • Separate people from the problem. – – – – Attack the problem, not people. Disagreement and conflict are OK. Don’t get defensive. Don’t be indirect – be direct but respectful. • People like directness. • When stuck, summarize. Making Groups Effective • Neutralize alpha-dominant people. – Aren’t aware they are dominating the discussion, upsetting others, and making others loath to participate (doom loop) and give up. – In group of six, three people do 70% of the talking. In a group of eight, three people do 70% of the talking, etc. – Use forced democracy: • BRAINWRITING • CYBERSTORMING • Brainwriting – Simultaneous written generation of ideas. • No guessing • No confessions • All ideas anonymous – – – – No longer than ten minutes in group sessions Secret ballot (put stickers on favorite ideas) Flag four-six most popular Groups who use brainwriting are much more effective, especially when ideas are discussed (attention) and people reflect on them (incubation). • Cyberstorming – Electronic brainstorming – Elegantly solve problems of production blocking – Because ideas are displayed for everyone, they can stimulate other ideas (synergy) – No one can talk too much, criticize ideas, or interrupt. – Difficult because people have to both generate and monitor ideas, but still more effective than old-fashioned brainstorming. Rules For Brainstorming Express ideas openly. 1. – No evaluation/criticism 2. – – – 7. 8. As many ideas as possible Build on ideas of others (synergy). 4. 6. Generation first, then judging Focus on quantity. 3. 5. Don’t hold back, get crazy, childish Combine ideas Keep groups small (five is ideal). Keep sessions about 30-40 minutes long. Individual brainstorming first (brainwriting), then in groups. Have clear, accepted goals and expectations (structure). Old Rules • Groups benefit most from building and combining ideas (not generating lots of novel ideas). • Groups are better at evaluating and judging ideas, not generating novel ones. • Osborn’s old rules are effective because they are rules and provide structure. • Quantity rule is most important. Facilitator • • • Set a clear goal. Keep group focused on the task. Restrict people from telling stories or explaining ideas. – • • Wasting time. When no one is suggesting an idea, restate the problem and encourage ideas. Encourage those people who are not talking to make a contribution. Facilitator • Focus on process and resist inserting substantive ideas. • Be a good umpire – enforce rules. • Focus on volume and novelty. • Break problems down into small chunks. • Help people get in touch with their child (open, energetic).