How to harness creativity

Very interesting article on the BBC Business website written by Peter Day.  In the first half of the piece, Day summarises how office work and space was organised, and the effect this had on effective management, especially creative thinking.  He then goes on to discuss brainstorming, of which he is quite critical.

Having led a number of ‘Deep Dives’* with a range of organisations, I have to disagree with Day.   He talks about brainstorming session involving ‘big groups’ .  But this is not how this process should be conducted.  If there is a big group, it should be broken down into smaller groups of about 5 or 6 for the brainstorm.  He also critiques the process because it can be ‘dominated by exhibitionist speakers’.  Again this is not the case if the session is lead by someone who knows what they are doing and who instills a rigid discipline on the participants.   Brainstorming is not a free for all, it is a carefully designed process.  He also appears not be clear about the purpose of a brainstorm.  They are designed to generate lots of ideas from which, using a different process, the best ones can be reviewed, analysed and selected.   The output of a brainstorm is quantity, not necessarily quality – but almost inevitably amongst the dross there will be some really good thoughts.

The rationale for brainstorming is simple.  Our individual minds tend to be trained to operate in a logical and systematic way, at least when we are conscious (this not the case with dreams, which is why many creative people have their best ideas when asleep).  Hence our thought processes tend to be quite narrow when thinking about a problem.  However, if you put together a group of people – especially if they come from different disciplines – and take them through a brainstorm, new ideas and perspectives spring out of the process.

*The ‘Deep Dive’ was originally developed by two Swiss academics in the late 1990s.   It is now trade marked and delivered by Deloitte.

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