“A fair idea implemented is better than a good idea kept on the polishing wheel.”
Alex Osborn, the “O” in the advertising agency BBD&O inventor of Brainstorming and a famous Buffalonian.
I would imagine that some of you have been in a brainstorming session when you have generated hundreds of ideas that fill flipchart pages full of ideas and then when the session is over, no one does anything with those ideas.
That’s’ why Brainstorming has gotten a bad name in some circles. People mistake Brainstorming for the entire creative process, when in fact; it is only the divergent phase, or the generation phase of the creative process. For ideas and solutions to move forward there needs to be convergence — you have to pick the best ideas generated to move forward and then implement those ideas.
The creative process has two different phases – diverging and converging. Brainstorming is a divergent tool.
Just to be clear Brainstorming has four guidelines that must be followed if this creativity tool is to work.
– Defer Judgment – Don’t evaluate your ideas or the ideas of other people in your team when you are generating ideas.
– Strive for Quantity – The more ideas you generate the greater the chance of generating good, even breakthrough ideas.
– Seek wild and unusual ideas – As Osborn, once stated, “it is easier to tame down a wild idea than to invigorate a weak one.” So, generate wild ideas. You can always engineer them down later when you converge
– Build on other ideas – Deliberately try to build on ideas that were previously generated.
I have even gotten remarks in my 35 plus years in this business from participants in my programs such as: “Hey I’m the idea guy. I don’t implement ideas.” My response was, “Of course you implement ideas. Because if you don’t implement an idea it is just words that someone wrote on a post-it.”
The Creative Problem Solving process that I teach has at least three distinct stages: 1. Clarify the Problem, once you have a clear definition of the problem you want to work on then, 2. Generate Ideas, once you have a developed a variety of ideas that might solve the problem then SELECT the best looking ideas and then develop 3. a Plan for Action.
In each one of these stages you diverge first. In Clarify the Problem, you brainstorm different ways to state the problem. In Generate Ideas, you generate ideas for solving the best definition of the problem. You then converge and select the ideas that will best solve the problem. You then refine those ideas and diverge on all of the action steps that will then help you create a Plan for Action. Once you have generated a variety of ways to implement the idea, then converge and form these actions into a plan of action to implement the idea.
At each stage of the Creative Problem Solving process you first diverge and generate options and then converge and select options. Divergence leads to new insights.
Convergence leads to action.
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