How to brainstorm – start with trust

How to brainstorm – start with trust

There’s always lots of discussion about the good, the bad and the ugly of a group brainstorm when we work with organisations to up the ante on their creative output.

Maybe we expect far too much from a single meeting or ‘brainstorm’ and we need to re-imagine the process or at least the outcomes.

I’m no fan of a badly run meeting (which effectively a crappy brainstorm is) – no agenda, no stimulus, poor problem statement, no insights, no prep, no facilitation, loads of assumptions, judgements, distractions and silo-protecting to name but a few.

Call the idea-generating process whatever you like but in my experience, brilliant creative and innovative ideas are rarely (if ever) the result of one person’s work start to finish. And we need to actively listen, to facilitate, to build on nascent thoughts and make room for discussion, debate and dissent amongst other things. This ‘creative abrasion’ is what aids the best ideas.

It’s not about ‘no such thing as a bad idea’ – of course there are loads of crappy ideas in meetings or brainstorms or conversations – but it’s what we do with them that counts and how we react. If we were scriptwriters we’d just call it all material until we decided what to do with it.

With Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity coming up next week just a glance at a single entry will often show up to 20 people named as contributors. Academics and scientists will cite many others in their own work.

Maybe the idea came from one person, (hopefully) based on an insight or data from another person or team, and the fledgeling idea goes through multiple iterations and edits before it sees the light of day.

This HBR article is not new but it’s still relevant to this discussion – the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety — the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.

Amy Edmonson of Harvard has written extensively about this and created an assessment – the Team Learning and Psychological Safety Survey is a 24 item measure. Team psychological safety, defined as the extent to which the team views the social climate as conducive to interpersonal risk, is assessed. Internal team learning behaviors, including the extent to which team members engage in behaviors designed to monitor progress and performance against goals and behaviors designed to test assumptions and create new possibilities, and external team learning behaviors, defined as the extent to which team members engage in behaviors designed to obtain information and feedback from others in the organization or from customers, are also measured. The respondent must also provide information on team learning outcomes which are defined as the learning benefits for individual team members as a result of working on this team.

Watch her short TED talk here

Start with building trust and the ideas will follow. However you want to gather them.

If you’re interested in developing your creative abilities and problem-solving skills check out our courses here.

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