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Don’t Kill Creativity

Posted on September 17, 2018 in Marketing

Every company thrives on creativity. We use it to solve problems, to grow, and to evolve into bigger and better businesses. In a lot of cases, leaders will bring together members of their teams or employees of their business to brainstorm all the kooky and innovative ways to take things to the next level.

This is a beautiful expression of the human experience. People getting together, working through problems, talking about solutions, and creating a better business than existed before.

One thing to keep in mind when you embark on anything that deals with human beings: We’re all wired differently. Too often we treat our team and employees as though they’re all people of the same disposition who behave, think, and feel in similar ways.

Fortunately, that’s not true! It’s what makes brainstorming sessions so incredibly engaging and exciting. You get to hear from people with different backgrounds, education, thoughts, and experiences. The culmination of all of those things makes for a unique, interesting perspective with the potential to crush all your business goals in the next year.

So, how do you effectively create this celebration of creativity through brainstorming? And how can it actually help your business in the long run? We’re glad you asked. Here are three techniques you can employ during your next creative brainstorming session.

Start Solo

Look: Brainstorming sessions can be intimidating. You’re throwing out ideas, baring your internal monologue in a way. If people aren’t used to being in brainstorming sessions, they can feel timid or self-conscious. Big personalities can take over the room, leaving voices unheard.

In short, it can be a stressful and difficult experience for people who aren’t seasoned to it. They can feel stifled and the whole thing could end up being counterproductive.

The solution: Let them start solo.

Give your team some runway to gather their thoughts about the specific thing you’d like to hold a brainstorm about, whether it’s to solve a problem or expand the business.

There are a couple different ways of doing this. In one Harvard Business Review article, the author discusses the 6-3-5 method of brainstorming where six people sit down at a table and write down three ideas. Each person then passes their ideas to the right, where that person expands on them. They do this five times then evaluate the ideas afterward.

Another simple way? Give everyone a week. Let them marinate on the problem. Let them digest other pieces of information. A lot of times, creativity comes from unexpected sources. Encourage your team to read articles, books, or even watch a TV show. You can find inspiration in all corners. Remind them of that.

Question Everything

One of our team members read an article (again in HBR) about using questions to reframe problems in brainstorming. This absolutely blew her mind. In short, author and MIT Lecturer Hal Gregersen explains how he stumbled upon a brainstorming technique during one of his classes. Instead of asking his students to come up with ideas or solutions, he asked them to dig in and ask new questions about the problems. To his delight, the students were reinvigorated with fervor and passion about the subject at hand.

Essentially he found that finding new ways to ask deeply complex questions about problems at hand could help reassess solutions. Not only did this help lead to a breakthrough, but it also removed the common barriers of brainstorming sessions we spoke of previously.

From the article:

“In traditional brainstorming—the kind that focuses on generating answers—individuals perform better than groups, on average. That’s because powerful group dynamics such as “social loafing” (coasting on others’ contributions) and social anxiety (fears about how one’s ideas will be judged) can hinder original thinking and stifle the voices of introverted members. But the question burst methodology, by design, reverses many of those destructive dynamics by prompting people to depart from their usual habits of social interaction.”

Gregersen even lays out some foundational work for what type of questions yield the best breakthrough in sessions. So, remember: Question everything.

Throw It All At the Wall

This one takes practice, but if you can get your team to do it with enthusiasm, confidence, and respect, it can bring about huge results.

Throw everything out there.

The crazy. The moonshots. The weird. The wild. The inconceivable. Just put it all on the line.

Explain to your team that nothing is off-limits. Tell them not to think of budgets, or timelines, or the logistics. Tell them anything their minds can think of is a possibility in this brainstorming room. Tell them to unleash their inner 3-year-old.

Then run with it. Keep saying yes. Keep building on ideas. Have fun. Laugh. Make jokes. Keep pushing and pushing.

When all is said and done, take a hard look at it. See what’s feasible. See what you can use or build on. Pick your three best ideas and start building a new day.

We guide brainstorming sessions and help our clients take creativity to the next level every day. If you’d like to learn about our branding and creative services, contact us today.

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