With supporting contributions from Tom Romito and community members of the Stockyard, Clark Fulton & Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio.
A Google search generated 181,000 pages on "brainstorming"! And there were 183,000 Google pages of “how to” books.
Though there are probably as many definitions on this topic as there are Google pages, I really liked this definition of a brainstorm from Mindtools.com:
"Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit crazy. Some of these ideas can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark even more ideas. This helps to get people unstuck by "jolting" them out of their normal ways of thinking.
"Therefore, during brainstorming sessions, people should avoid criticizing or rewarding ideas. You're trying to open up possibilities and break down incorrect assumptions about the problem's limits. Judgment and analysis at this stage stunts idea generation and limit creativity.
"Evaluate ideas at the end of the session – this is the time to explore solutions further, using conventional approaches."
The plethora of advice that covers the creative “think outside the box” goals, the “let’s get the shy talking and the extrovert to shut up”. This usually involves a swipe at two of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences: Spatial-Visual and Verbal-Linguistic.
Let’s rethink the brainstorm definition and see what can be used daily.
In one article at I-Open, valuing was discussed - not in terms of giving value or appreciating - but in terms of evaluating, assessing, estimating, or appraising. Let’s value brainstorming.
1.) There are many ways to relax that expand the individual in a broad range of circumstances, such as the work environment. One easy, short, potent way to relax is through a minute or two of mindful relaxation and deep breathing. This can be followed by a brief minute or two of visioning. Seems too much to ask?
What reasons are there, for not taking a few minutes to prepare? You don’t have to get in the lotus position or best mudras of peace and wisdom. You don’t even have to close your eyes but ya could if you’re in your office alone before the meeting, or in your car, in the parking lot, or fill in the blank.
2.) Informal? What do you think keeps informality at problem solving sessions from everyday use?
Informality often leads to more intimate gatherings and can shift or relegate the chain of command to a more equitable field where ideas are equally attended to and valued.
"Have everyone take two deep, cleansing breaths, then return to normal breathing. Follow by asking people to meditate for 60 seconds on a scene they love, such as a sunny beach, a mountain vista, a tropical pond." -Tom Romito
"Wow this is great! Love it! This could be visioning by connecting this feeling to envisioning a great solution." - Cavana Faithwalker
“Therefore, during brainstorming sessions, people should avoid criticizing or rewarding ideas."
When is it ever not a good idea to get jolted or unstuck out of normal ways of thinking? You may be doing something that you can do in your sleep, the team has done it so many times. Wouldn’t it be nice to be awake, mindful and present?
Rarely, if ever, have I been involved in planning sessions and the like that someone didn’t joke about a solution, encouraged by the laughter, another silly idea comes and then another and then we brush them to the side and get down to business.
Next time, maybe consider those business, brainstorming, and start jotting stuff down, just to put folks in the frame of mind of valuing the offerings as opposed to rote applying “common sense wisdom of experience,” and over looking a good idea..
You're trying to open up possibilities and break down incorrect assumptions about the problem's limits. Judgment and analysis at this stage stunts idea generation and limit creativity.” Did I mention Socrates? Why ever immediately criticize or reward ideas?
"I gather all of the inputs on flip charts as we go through the session. Then I work on consensus on priorities for action. I use "sensing" to get a feel for what they group wants. Multi-voting also works, but is a little artificial and stilted." - Tom Romito
Is there a certain relationship ideal for problem solving or team planning that is easy and ideal for all idea exchange situations?
1.) Practice mindfulness at least 5 minutes which will help you think before you think.
2.) Listen, consider, and honor what is being said.
3.) Respect everyone’s offering of an idea or suggestion.
5.) Leave room in your head for silly ideas from yourself and others.
6.) Create space for dissent.
7.) Your thoughts, ideas, additions, elaborations?
One last suggestion for large group engagements that can greatly enhance the process above, make them smaller.
“The intimacy makes the process personal. It provides the structure where people overcome isolation and where the experience of belonging is created."
"The small group is "the unit of transformation because it creates a sense of intimacy." - Peter Block
Peter Block technicians say “knee to knee groups of three,” or something like that to reorder large groups into more authentic fruitful circles and then direct attention back to the whole afterward.
"In Facilitation, we call these breakout groups. I use them in strategic planning workshops to conduct a SWOT analysis. I send smTom Romitoall grou ps off to work on specific segments, then bring them back together to report out and get consensus from the whole group on core strategies." -
"This is a little more specific than what I think of as break out groups in that it is ideally 3 people per group. If the group is bigger it is always an odd number. Report outs are by the entire or most of the group." - Cavana Faithwalker
Cavana Faithwalker is an Organizational, Community and Personal Empowerment Strategist and Facilitator.
Cavana Faithwalker was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He has a degree in public art marketing and management from Cleveland State University. “So my degree is mix of urban studies, marketing and communications and studio art." Read the rest of Cavana's story here.
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