Embrace crazy ideas – This is how to kickstart your team’s creativity
In order to develop creative ideas during a group brainstorm session, you need psychological safety. An environment in which participants feel safe to share their ideas, even the silly ones, allowing other team members to build upon these ideas. To encourage your team to share bold ideas, you can use a technique called: ‘Follow the White Rabbit’.
At HatRabbits we organize and facilitate many creative sessions. We believe (and see in practice) that everybody is capable of coming up with creative ideas. However, we have also noticed that sometimes people are uncomfortable sharing ‘wild’ ideas. Some people find it difficult to speak their minds and communicate their novel thoughts.
As crazy ideas often lead to the most interesting insights, this reluctance to share unusual thoughts can harm the creative session. That’s why we have developed a technique called ‘Follow the White Rabbit’. A group exercise that forces people to generate and share crazy ideas.
Follow the white rabbit
Make sure that the challenge of the brainstorm is visible to everyone. In case you haven’t done it yet, make sure that you challenge is formulated as a ‘How can we…?’ or ‘How might we..?’ question.
Hand out a piece of paper to every participant. Make sure that the paper has enough space to write down ideas. Ask the participants to divide the paper into three equal parts. (By folding the paper or by drawing lines.)
Step 1. Write down a crazy idea
Ask all participants to individually (without consultation) write down a ‘crazy idea’ (in the first column) to reach the desired goal. By crazy we mean an idea that is impossible, illegal, unethical etc.
These crazy ideas should be unrealistic! However, they also need to fit the challenge.
Participants should write down 1 idea and then slip their piece of paper to their neighbour on the right.
2. Make the idea even crazier
Everyone now has a new piece of paper in front of them, with one strange idea written on it. Ask participants to look at their neighbour’s crazy idea and add something to it (in the second column), to make it even crazier. The more absurd or funny the ideas, the better. Tell participants to “write down an idea that is so crazy that it will make your neighbour laugh or frown.”
Again, participants should write down one idea and then hand over their piece of paper to their neighbour on the right.
Step 3. Turn the crazy ideas into something feasible
The last step is about turning the crazy ideas into feasible ideas. Everybody now has a crazy idea and a crazier idea that can be used as stepping stones to generate creative ideas from.
Give participants a few moments to turn the ideas into something workable. Remind the participants that they should keep the idea’s novelty when looking for feasibility.
You might want to hand them a few pieces of advice, such as;
- What value does this idea contain? (Can we reach it in another way?)
- What are the cons to this idea? (How could we remove these downsides?)
- What’s the main principle behind this idea? (In what other ways can we utilize this principle?)
To learn more about this last step you may want to read some of my previous posts:
- How to turn crazy ideas into feasible solutions (1/2)
- How to turn crazy ideas into feasible solutions (2/2)
In practice it could look something like this:
“How might we attract new talented employees for our department?”
- Crazy idea: “We kidnap talented employees from our competitors”
- Crazier idea: “… and extract their DNA to clone them and breed our own talent pool.”
- Great idea: The ideas above could lead to ideas such as:
- “We create our own training course to train and attract new employees.” (talent pool)
- “We offer our competitor’s recruiter a job.” (kidnap)
- “We ask our current most talented employees to recruit for us, and offer jobs to their friends and peers.” (clone)
There are several reasons why this silly technique makes it a bit less scary to share ‘wild’ ideas. First of all, every participant will be challenged to come up with ridiculous ideas simultaneously. Secondly, after the first time passing ideas to the right, everyone sees what idiotic suggestions his/her neighbour has jotted down (making it less scary to write down something unorthodox themselves). Even more importantly, silliness is rewarded in this technique! The craziest ideas get the biggest laughs. The participants with the wildest ideas get the most credit. And finally, in the second step, the technique actively challenges every participant to make the former idea even more ridiculous. ‘Make your neighbour laugh‘ and ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s your neighbour’s problem!‘ are some of the phrases we use that never fail to ignite some outrageous ideas.
Want to know more?
The ‘Follow the White Rabbit’ technique is based on the principle that it’s easier to ‘tame’ a wild idea then it is to make a dull idea look interesting. If you want to learn more about creative thinking techniques, feel free to contact us or sign up on our website and stay up to date with our free articles.