Better Brainstorming (2/3)

Warming up the creative muscle

Brainstorming is fun and dead serious. This contradiction sometimes makes it hard to find the right balance. If a brainstorm is too loose the ideas will be too far off from the brief. If the brainstorm is too formal participants will have difficulty letting go of their everyday rational, analytical and critical mindsets.

Some people fear the creative process and believe that they are not able to come up with good ideas. They often compensate this feeling by sharing their old thoughts and ideas. This is great for exchanging perceptions but it is not very useful when your objective is to generate entirely new ideas.

To change limiting mindsets you’ll have to let participants get to know their creative selves. You need to unleash the beast within the brain. You’ll have to let it out and let it play…

Before you begin the brainstorm start with a short exercise in creative thinking. Kickstart your session with an unrelated and neutral assignment.

Below you’ll find some examples to get the creative juices flowing.

Design new ways to carry money without a wallet.
Come up with new ways to paint a wall without a brush.
Design a machine to collect chicken eggs.

Of course, the outcome of these exercises are of no importance. They do however contribute to the right creative mindset. They are designed to warm up the creative muscle.

The suggested ideas are not created within a (mine)field of expertise. This will keep people away from starting the brainstorm with a debate.

The exercises will give participants time to get to know each other and introduce them with the concept of creativity; reach for quantity and defer judgment.

Divide the participants in small groups. Let every group come up with several ideas for the challenge. Write down all the ideas. This way everybody understands that each individual idea is of importance. Stimulate crazy ideas and hunt for novelty.

One or two short exercises (+/- 3 minutes each) should be enough. Take a small amount of time to share the most original ideas. Discuss the results briefly and continue the brainstorm with the main topic.

Keep the brainstorm playful but not too light. In the end you do need useful ideas.

The best way to get original ideas is to use thinking techniques. But be careful, first empty the minds of the participants. It’s best to first let out all the old ideas.

People feel comfortable with sharing their own familiar ideas. Let them. The first ideas are seldom the best ones. They however deserve your attention. Sometimes there is value in combining existing ideas into a new concept.

By collecting the old ideas you remove the pressure of producing. You continue with a good collection and give people the possibility to share their existing thoughts. The empty mind is an open mind. It’s more willing to accept different and new ideas.

During the brainstorm the facilitator should stimulate participants to piggyback ride on each others ideas. This way the crazy and wild ideas will be introduced as valuable sources of inspiration. It will turn the brainstorm slowly into a more creative and open environment where having wild ideas is appreciated and stimulated.

When people are getting no more (original) ideas, take a break. After the break you can introduce creative thinking techniques. This is the moment where the real magic begins…

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