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Brainstorming the Right Problem Dr. Christopher Barlow Copyright © 2016 The Co- Creativity Institute • 551 Roosevelt Rd 112 • Glen Ellyn IL 60137 • Creativity is the ability to go beyond your learning to develop new ideas, plans, and knowledge that give you better results than your original knowledge. Having n aturally high creativity i s a wonderful thing, often credited with great inventions and great art. Fortunately, while people can be high or low in their levels of natural creativity, ways have been developed to help people to perform as if they were more creative. This is especially fortunate because it has been consistently demonstrated that people with high levels of knowledge tend to perform with less creativity in their areas of expertise. One of the more basic and powerful techniques to deliberately perform more creatively, especially in groups, is known as “brainstorming”. This term is popular, but not everyone who uses the term actually understands how to make the method work most effectively. An Environment of Listening Alex Osborn was an advertising executive who no ticed that junior people with interesting id eas were not saying them in meetings. He realized that in the usual meeting environment their fear of the opinions and criticisms of others kept people from sharing unproven ideas. The “brainstorming” meeting environment he designed found far better ideas by generating high numb er s of ideas (fluency) which were different from each other (flexibility). To eliminate their fear of criticism, Osborn's first rule was to "defer judgment". Anyone who judged your idea should be criticized. Notice that the rule is not to never judge, but to wait until later. In this way, ideas which are the seeds of solutions can be offered to the group and improved until their full potential is evident. With Osborn's four basic rules, groups were able to work together and generate 50 to 500 idea s in as little as five minutes. His groups were so productive that no secretary could keep up, so sessions were tape recorded and typed transcripts given to those attending for later evaluation. Building that Environment The brainstormin g environmen t is a relationshi p of honest and earned trust. Building that relationship among the participants is essential to brainstorming success. One wa y to build that trust is to practic e the methods on problems which do not trigger strong differences of opinion among t h e p a r t i ci p a n t s . Start by being creativ e on les s controversial problems. Exercis e the skills and build the trust with nonsense problems, such as "Ways to improve a bed” or "Unusual uses for bricks" or "New Name s fo r Sports Teams". As the people get comfortable with the process and each other, they can take on more stressful tasks.
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