When thinking about creativity in teams, we often imagine a bunch of people in front of a flipchart throwing on the paper whatever comes to their mind – brainstorming.
But, what actually is brainstorming? And what is it actually useful for?
This is how Mark McGuinness defines the term:
“‘Brainstorming’ is such a common word that it’s often used to describe any meeting or conversation designed to generate ideas. But what the critics are really complaining about are formal brainstorming sessions, governed by a set of rules that originated with advertising manager Alex Faickney Osborn, in his 1963 book Applied Imagination. The basic assumption is that by suspending judgement, people free themselves to come up with unusual and potentially useful ideas. The four most important rules are:
- Generate as many ideas as possible – the more ideas you come up with, the better chance you have of coming up with good ones.
- Don’t criticise – it will dampen peoples’ enthusiasm and kill their creativity.
- Welcome unusual ideas – it’s important to break out of your usual mindset and consider wild and wacky ideas if you want to be really creative.
- Combine and improve ideas – instead of criticising ideas, look for way to use them in combination and/or make them better.
A leader is appointed to facilitate the session, encouraging people and making sure they stick to the rules. The leader is also responsible for collecting the ideas, usually by writing them on a whiteboard, flipchart or post it notes. Once ideas have been generated, they are evaluated at a later stage, to see which are worth implementing.”
Even though brainstorming does have value, for the purpose of energizing, team building and alignment around a topic, there is one main drawback to the method: most results are of little practical value.
This is why: most ideas produced during brainstorming sessions don’t work in reality, because of a lack of essential filters. Again, McGuiness explains this very clearly:
“Brainstorming is said to work because critical thinking is banned, allowing for a freer flow of original ideas. But again, the research raises doubts about this. One study compared classic brainstorming sessions with sessions in which brainstormers were told what criteria would be used to evaluate their ideas and encouraged to use this information to guide their idea generation. The ‘criteria cued’ groups produce fewer ideas, but a larger number of high-quality ideas. The danger with brainstorming is that quantity does not equal quality.
A common source of frustration for professionals is having to sit through brainstorming sessions in which other people generate a stream of ideas that ‘simply won’t work’. Sometimes the subject experts have tried the ideas before, sometimes they just have technical knowledge that allows them to see why the ideas will never work. But because of the rules of brainstorming, they aren’t allowed to say so, as they will be labelled ‘idea killers’.”
Instead, ideas in brainstorming sessions tend to be vague and abstract. Nick Fransen is quite pointed in his description of the common dynamics. He also translates his critique into a series of useful tips:
“Far too often (…) teams get stuck in the abstract world of fluff: Buzzword bingo! This is detrimental to innovation. It can destroy an idea’s chances of becoming a reality. Let me help you in your next endeavor.
Here are 8 words that should raise the hairs on the back of your neck: tread carefully!
- Platform: Yup, That’s right. I wanted to get this one out of the way first. And here’s why: 90% of the time, it’s just a cover up for an idea that you didn’t really think through. Is it a matchmaking marketplace with a supply and demand side? Is it a DIY website builder? Is it … ? Seriously.
- Fix: Try and explain your idea without using this word and find out how quickly you realise it’s an empty box
- One Stop Shop: So you want to fix all the existing needs and problems in one go? Maybe that’s a bit much to take onto your plate as a 5-person team…
- Instead, try and list all separate features you would need. How about actually nailing one thing at a time?
- Disruptive: Actually, the main pain of this word is that it’s not used for what it really means . Unless you’re offering a service that was previously inaccessible to a certain customer group at a severely lowered price with a drastically improved UX, Don’t call it disruptive.
- Community: How many people do you need before you’re community would be a success? Maybe try convincing 3 users first?
- Quality Label: “Oh a community is indeed a lot of work. Let’s go for a quality label.” First off: how many of these labels actually exist already? Do you pay attention to any of them? Nope. Neither does anybody else. Next to that. How many partners would you need to convince to make it credible?
- Omnichannel: Are you living in 2005? In all seriousness: focus! Find your early adopters and validate their preferred channel.
- App: Really, you want to make an app for that? If you said ChatBot, I might’ve been excited. But app?
- Big Data: Oh god.
So, not only are time and energy wasted on less-than-productive discussions, the process also inherently inhibits the creation of truly very radical ideas, as described by Paul Sloane:
“Unfortunately for managers, your presence in the room can inhibit people. With you there, it is very hard for your team to switch from normal meeting mode to creative brainstorm mode. You want them to confront the current conventions and generate unorthodox ideas. But some of these hidden factors might be at play:
- Too much deference and respect for authority (you!)
- Fear of looking silly
- Fear of rejection
- Not wanting to look disloyal or insolent
- Dislike of conflict or argument
You tell them that anyone can challenge anything and make any suggestion. They nod in agreement but they are waiting to see what happens. Someone suggests something strange and you immediately point out why that might not work. People read the signals and you are straight back into a conventional meeting with little chance of the wealth of radical ideas you were hoping for.”
To summarize, Brainstorming can indeed be useful:
- For a quick download of existing ideas.
- To improve existing ideas.
- For teambuilding.
- To energize the team (at least until disappointment from results sets in).
- To break hierarchical boundaries.
It is, therefore, important to consider what brainstorming can and cannot deliver:
If you are looking for any of the effects listed above, you might very well be needing brainstorming. If you are looking for innovation or actual idea generation, beware of its limitations.
And a last point to consider: if you are using an innovation methodology of any kind, ask yourself whether it is actually a new packaged version of (good) old Brainstorming.
Orly Seagull, VP Corporate Business Development at SIT. Posted from SIT.
By: Tom Ewing, Senior Director, System1 Group
“First I look at the purse” sang Motown’s The Countours. Kelley Styring, principal of InsightFarm, would sympathise. In 2006, then again in 2016, she asked hundreds of women to empty out their purses in the name of science. Her project, “an archaeology of the American handbag”, explores the meaning both personal and practical of purses – and, er, ‘murses’, since men are carrying them too: one of the big shifts between waves of the study. (The men themselves might prefer the term ‘satchels’.)
Between them, the purse-carrying women and men of America are toting an astonishing 271 million bags: “homes away from home” which are a remarkable commercial opportunity for any company making things that might find their way into them. But this opportunity is poorly understood, and manufacturers of both purses and purse contents are failing their customers, according to Styring. The interior of a purse is an extremely hostile environment, halfway between a tumble-dryer and a lucky dip, and the lipsticks, coupons, receipts, and headphone cords which find their way in are prone to gradually degrade into either trash or “digital hairballs”. The purse is both beautifully practical – a little bag you can carry your life’s essentials in – and desperately unwieldy during the precious seconds when you’re trying to get something out of it.
Styring’s entertaining presentation married survey research and ethnography to explore not just what’s in America’s purses (1 in 10 contains a weapon, though the main categories are money, cards, phones, personal care, and keys) but what they mean. She explored the Circle of Preparedness – the way the contents of a purse enable its carrier to be ready to help herself, her family, her friends and often complete strangers who need a band-aid, a pen, or a light. The purse is an entry point into adulthood for women in their early teens for whom it becomes a mobile resource for their newfound independence, carrying money, phones and sanitary items. Gain entry to a purse in these formative years and categories and brands can make a customer for life.
But the purse is also a kind of limbo, into which items are placed and forgotten: one woman Styring surveyed turned out to be carrying 17 different pens, mostly promotional ones liberated from stores and banks. Unwanted receipts, degraded tissues, and forgotten gewgaws fight for space with genuine essentials. And into this behavioural melting pot, an unexpected interloper has found its way between 2006 and now: the smartphone.
Behaviours around smartphones both complement and duplicate behaviours around purses. Both are connectors – bridges between home (where needs are made) and the store (where needs are satisfied). Both are also ways of organising and making portable one’s everyday life – the purse content categories which dropped off between ways are things like coupons, which are increasingly being replaced by e-commerce and m-commerce offers. Despite this, the weight and the number of items in purses remained constant over the last decade – for every obsolete category, some new item comes to take their place.
Smartphones and purses may overlap in function, but purses are also where you put your phone. This integration between digital order and physical mess is where Strying sees some of the billions of dollars of innovation potential in the world of the purse. What will smart purses look like – ones that respond to being opened with useful information, or which establish a cone of RFID silence to protect their bearer? There are also plenty of purely physical problems still to solve – there must be a way of designing purse contents for the dangerous environments they are placed in.
Styring’s presentation was a delight –rich in insights and stories: her firm InsightFarm has published a book detailing the results of the second wave. You came away feeling that her study was rather like a purse itself: elegantly designed, compact, and full of both useful stuff and unexpected surprises.
Article reposted by permission of KNect365. View original article here.
KNect365, the Knowledge & Networking Division of Informa, organizes high-quality, content-driven events and programs that enable specialist communities to meet, connect, network and share knowledge. KNect365 provides digital content, memorable face to face experiences, networking and professional development and learning for customers in key industry verticals, including Finance, Life Sciences and Technology.
Facing especially wicked problems, social sector organizations are searching for powerful new methods to understand and address them. Design Thinking for the Greater Good goes in depth on both the how of using new tools and the why. As a way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers, design thinking is already well established in the commercial world. Through ten stories of struggles and successes in fields such as health care, education, agriculture, transportation, social services, and security, the authors show how collaborative creativity can shake up even the most entrenched bureaucracies—and provide a practical roadmap for readers to implement these tools.
The design thinkers Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer explore how design thinking helped impoverished farmers adopt new practices in Mexico, kept at-risk California teenagers in school, reduced the frequency of mental health emergencies in Australia, and helped manufacturers and government regulators in Washington find common ground on medical device standards. Across these vastly different problems and sectors, these groups have used the tools of design thinking to reduce risk, manage change, use resources more effectively, bridge the communication gap between parties, and manage the competing demands of diverse stakeholders. Along the way, they have improved the quality of their products and enhanced the experiences of those they serve.
With strategies accessible to analytical and creative types alike, and benefits extending throughout an organization, Design Thinking for the Greater Good will help today's leaders and thinkers implement these practices in their own pursuit of creative solutions that are both innovative and achievable.
Jeanne Liedtka is a professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. Her books include Solving Problems with Design Thinking (2013), Designing for Growth (2011), and The Designing for Growth Field Book (2013), all from Columbia University Press.
Randy Salzman is a journalist and former communications professor. His work has been published in over one hundred magazines, journals, and newspapers, from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Mother Jones, Bicycling, and Style.
Daisy Azer is an entrepreneur, principal at Waterbrand Consulting Inc., and adjunct lecturer of design thinking at the Darden Graduate School of Business. Her career spans roles in business development and training and development in the financial industry, education, and technology.