5 Rules of Brainstorming

Idea LeadershipWhenever I ask if anyone knows how to brainstorm, they always say, “Yes.” Not long into the activity they demonstrate that they don’t know how or are unable to follow the rules. I always keep a reminder sheet of brainstorming rules on me to quickly review with teams. Here is the list—

1. There are No Dumb Ideas. This is the hardest rule to keep for people who don’t practice brainstorming often, especially when someone shares an idea from out of left field. Any negative feedback immediately closes down part of the person’s mind in the name of protection. It also shuts down anyone else who heard the comment and hinders the team’s progress.

The best way to approach all ideas is from a position of acceptance. Everyone knows when a better idea is shared, so no one ever needs to be told their idea wasn’t any good, especially when the weird ideas tend to spark more creativity that leads to great ideas. The not-so-great ideas are like kindling that starts a bonfire. If kindling is squelched, the bonfire never gets lit.

2. Don’t Criticize Other People’s Ideas. The moment judgment, a left-brain activity, enters the discussion it shuts down the right brain where great ideas are formed. The only reason for a person to shoot down an idea is to show superiority, which stifles creativity. No creative team has room for a superior being on it. After all, a dominant person in a brainstorming session tries to leverage their ideas instead of finding what’s best for the story.

When someone criticizes an idea, the greatest tool of correction is for the team to immediately use the “bad idea” as a launching point for a diversion into play. Dave Crawford, a Disney Imagineering Principal Mechanical Show/Ride Engineer says, “The most unrealistic options inspire tangent ideas that take you to new places you would have never considered.” By exploring all the possible tangents, not only does the criticizer learn his or her place, but also the team gets to overcome the negative comments with numerous newly inspired ideas.

3. Build on Other People’s Ideas. Some ideas are like taking a thumb out of a dam with a flurry of side or bigger ideas pouring forth. Teams can get on a roll of ideas that build one on top of the other. This sends the team into diverse directions and can shift the focus to address sustainable details. The goal is to capture the best of all the ideas and find an angle on it that will out last the test of time.

In the improv community, who brainstorms live on stage, the process is called, “yes, and.” The yes acknowledges the first person’s comment in a positive light and then adds to it a bigger, tangential or more detailed idea. The add-on is never viewed as being “better,” but instead as being the next step in the developmental process for creating great show or story.

4. Reverse Quality for Quantity. During production or performance everyone focuses on quality. However, in the developmental brainstorming process its mandatory to chase after quantity. It’s impossible to come up with a new invention, show or story without pouring through a gazillion ideas until you find that one new angle, perspective or idea. Whether the goal is to educate or entertain, some form of the idea must be new.

Most pros board their brainstorming activities and later gather the large quantity of ideas based on observable groupings, topic, viewpoint or uniqueness. Screenplay writers group their ideas by set pieces, turning points and entertainment value. Businessmen group their ideas based on presentation, features and benefits. Preachers group their ideas based on scripture, story and application.

5. Play Wildly. This is the most important element and the one few people want to see on the list. The more childlike the approach during the brainstorming process, the more creative the final solution. The play factor instills energy into the developmental process and infuses it with fun-based passion. This activity drives the kind of creativity required for a successful brainstorming session.

Many people define play differently. Some watch a movie in between sessions. Some quip off jokes. The more energetic get into character and role-play various perspectives. Others pull out board games, while still others get into pretend or make-believe worlds. Some even get more elaborate in their play within the worlds of cosplay or steampunk. Any activity works that is immersed in right-brained activity—even scribbling games on a blank sheet of paper.

When the rules of brainstorming are adhered to, all participants gain energy from the experience. When the rules are abused, people feel drained afterwards. This thermometer that tests the flow of creative juices is important to monitor for the sake of future sessions and productivity. Without play, all brainstorming sessions fall a part.

Leveraging the Creative Subconscious

CreativeAfter watching a dozen documentaries about screenwriters, designers, directors and editors, I’ve come to the conclusion that these artists, at least the good ones, know how to leverage their subconscious. The art they create not only has a footing in reality, but their perspective is greatly enhanced by a highly creative filter from deep within the right side of their brain and their heart.

The most exhilarating creative ideas that pop into my head come early in the morning or at times when my mind is off playing or well rested. The pros take advantage of those moments to strengthen their work and bring new entertainment value to bear. This same moment allowed me to write this blog in the fraction of time it normally takes.

To leverage this strength, my friend David did creative work in the morning and analytical work in the afternoon when logic ruled his mindset. That’s not to say he was never creative in the afternoon, but the level of creative play was typically reduced after hours of exploration and work.

There are three commonalities among professional creatives that are worth understanding.

PLAY

Deadlines and pressure never increase creativity, but the opposite magnifies the creative flow. The strongest fuel of imagination is play. It’s made up of the same elements we explored as children and allows our inner child to come out to have fun. It can’t be taught or demanded, it can only be given a safe environment in which to let go so the creative can be free to pretend.

Play allows hearts to touch or bond without being romantic, which non-creatives don’t get, as they’re convinced something more has to be there, but its not. Play also allows passion to rise and solidifies why a work of art is important. Without it, people can’t understand what the artist saw in the work.

PROCRASTINATE

Non-creatives who have watched the procrastination process of the artist assume the person is lazy; not realizing their mind is going a million miles per hour. The percolation process is what gives flavor to the creatives’ work. A long bought of what appears to be boredom turns into aggressive workflow that can easily go late into the night or until the creative has to flop onto his bed.

Many creatives will plan ahead for their moments of procrastination by determining in advance the item they want to ponder. Most find their breakthrough by morning or in the drifting of their mind. Harnessing this natural phenomenon gives professionals an added benefit of what appears to be a secret weapon of the imagination.

OBSERVE

The best writers I’ve met or learned about through blogs and short films take time to watch a movie every day. They also peruse scrapbooks, magazines and other mind stimulating products. Not only do the myriad of observations fill them with ideas, but it also helps them to know what to avoid because it has already been done.

The most fun is watching others live their lives. People have the funniest idiosyncrasies that inspire. While some might suggest these oddities are a sign of the person’s weakness, the artist sees it as their humanity emerging in a unique fashion. These peculiarities make the person wholly them.

Being able to leverage the elements that feed the subconscious, the creative can explore matters of the heart like no one else. The more this process was protected by society, the greater was the renaissance of the time. It’s no wonder that most movements were birthed in the church, which at one time was a protected place for many hearts before the decades of judgment that ensued.

Over this weekend, as America celebrates its Independence, find time to play, procrastinate and observe. See if anything arises within your soul that must be reduced to some form or expression of art. Take this weekend to determine if being more creative will give you insights into humanity and a wisdom found by few.

Inspiring Leaders Develop 3 Easter Eggs of Success

© apops - Fotolia.comMy son gave a great talk at a large conference of social web developers. While the talk didn’t come together until a few days before his presentation, it was extremely well received and life changing for the participants. Others also grew by watching his talk on the web weeks later.

When Chris explained how he put his talk together, I realized that he followed the Dale Carnegie method of preparation. Carnegie was a leader who felt it was important to be constantly learning and growing, so as to always be prepared for any opportunity to speak. Carnegie had a large reservoir of information he could draw from at any point in time to give a great talk.

Chris prepared by gathering known information from within his own reservoir, organized it and personalized it for his audience. While it only took a few days to “create” his talk, Chris had taken months in preparing the information – A task he takes for granted.

I wanted to learn how the talk went so I asked him a few questions. Chris immediately suggested that his talk was successful for three reasons. It just so happens that he listed the same three Easter eggs of success that inspiring leaders take time to develop.

1. DEVELOP TRUST

Inspiring leaders are authentic. They address their employees from a point of reality, even when casting a vision for the company’s future. This creates a level of hope within each employee, as they comprehend how things could work and understand their role in making it happen. To support this new hope, inspiring leaders invite participation from every employee.

The results are products and services that each employee thinks and feels is in place because of their part in the process, yet no one is able to separate out their portion from the whole. The item also becomes a symbol of trust that each employee placed in the inspiring leader to see the vision come to fruition.

2. DEVELOP PERFORMANCE

Building trust is simplified when the inspiring leader sells the benefit of the process to each employee. The newly agreed upon benefit also drives the employees to higher levels of performance. This is especially true when the atmosphere is one of curiosity and play, rather than pressure and deadlines.

The strong inspiring leader is able to navigate a course of action based on quick but calculated decisions, the established process being an adventure for the team to explore together, and a playful time of creative exercise. All of which raises the bar of outstanding performance among peers.

3. DEVELOP EMPLOYEES

Developing employees over time is the most practical of activities that inspiring leaders engage in. The reinforcing of the employee’s optimism is critical to the company’s long-term success. Related by perspective is the opportunity to turn all failures into educational experiences, especially when coupled with a focus on igniting the enthusiastic potential within each worker.

This emphasis on individuals encourages confidence of character and voice. Self-assurance becomes the very driver that turns standard employees into the gifted. Without the employees, the company has no future potential and will eventually be overtaken by the next big thing.

Inspiring leaders build trust by focusing on their resources. They also work to refine their abilities and seek to promote the best in others. When evaluating the gifts, skills and talents of their team, they work hard to draw out a higher level of performance than what the worker thought was innately possible.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers