The genius of the “and”…


“Collaborative innovation involves the genius of the “and” versus the tyranny of the “or.” It’s not that brainstorming must always turn into “Groupthink” or that introverts or individuals have the best ideas. In good brainstorming, one feeds off the other and the end result is significantly more powerful than either approach alone.” – Harvard Business Review 

The need, space, and time for “Passionate Champions” to “and” an idea is the often missing step in the brainstorming process, says this latest article from HBR. 

Step One: Collaborate on ideas as a group. Make sure everyone is heard, help individuals improve their own thinking and be exposed to ideas they may not have thought of on their own.

Step Two: Open up the session to passionate, individual champions:

“Anyone, alone or with other people if they need or want help, can pick any idea and develop it further. Even if the idea has already been developed in one direction, a Passionate Champion may see it very differently and develop it in a totally different manner. Or, they can pick an idea that was not advocated by the group or selected by the client, and develop it as they see fit.

In our work, we find that Passionate Champion ideas often account for 50% of those that make it through internal and external vetting, and 20-30% of the ideas that make it into final concepts. What’s more, they are often the most breakthrough in terms of truly new, game-changing concepts.”

Create the safe environment for ideas to flow, allow those who want to “yes, and” an idea to do so. Who can say yes to an idea in your organization? 

What’s the drill – July 17: Put this brainstorming trick into action

Did you know, IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study cited “creativity” as the most important leadership quality for the future.

Bolster your toolkit to include strategies for creative problem solving… like this one:

A two-minute brainstorming session… it might just be the efficient tool you’ve been looking for and a go-to trick when you’re stuck in a creative rut.

Here are the rules:

1. Two minutes

2. No judgement of ideas

3. Write down everything

4. Quantity over quality

Then, take a look at your results.

Pick 3 of your ideas (trust your instincts on this one) to do another 2 minute brainstorming session, extrapolating on each idea.

Dig deeper into your creative well by asking yourself questions like — what would happen if the opposite were true? What would this idea look like a year from now? How would our competition execute this idea?

Start with the phrase… “What if” and see where it takes you. By role-playing scenarios and ideas without any fear of judgement (and just a little bit of time and energy) you’re pumping up your creative muscle by asking the  curious questions that promote self-reflection, resilience, flexibility, empathy, and sometimes… more questions.



Censor got you silent? Try this exercise for your next brainstorming warm-up

When you hear the word ‘brainstorming’ you might instantly tense up.

What if my answer isn’t correct? I can’t think on my feet. What if my answer is judged?

All of these concerns (which can be lessened based on your office culture and reinforcement of values) are common and because of them, we tend to censor ourselves and become more inhibited with our ideas and contributions.

We filter out our “crazy” ideas, pre-judging them before they’re even spoken.

To fool our filters and train our brains to be more spontaneous, one trick, per this article in Fast Company is to focus on speed. When you’re going this fast, there’s no time to judge ideas.

We know it’s hard to brainstorm cold. So here’s my favorite 3-minute warmup to quiet your censor and get you primed for better brainstorming.

  1. Walk around the room, pointing out what you see and naming it out loud (60 seconds)
  2. Walk around the room again, point out what you see, but name it the item you previously pointed at (60 seconds)
  3. Walk around the room, point at things and purposefully call it by the wrong name. Anything you want! (60 seconds).

What did you notice?


How to fix your most common brainstorming problems

Do your brainstorming sessions need a jump-start?

To inspire more creative and innovative brainstorming sessions, it’s useful to consider shaking up your brainstorming process to inspire new connections, or a new way of looking at the same routine –  to help encourage the kind of creativity you are looking for.

Have you been a part of brainstorming sessions like these….?

1. Our sessions fail because people find it difficult to avoid judging and evaluating ideas:

Asking people not to judge ideas is one thing, getting them to really adjust their behavior and create new habits (and an open mind) is another. Beyond teaching the “yes, and” mindset, consider starting a session with this jolt:

Research and then list out-loud the original idea for a few now-popular and successful products and services.  Test your participant’s initial reaction. A good idea can start anywhere. What would have happened if these original ideas had been judged and shot down?

2. Not everyone gets to speak – personality differences affect our brainstorming sessions:

Creating a safe environment for all personality types to contribute is important beyond measure. Consider letting participants know the topic before-hand, also allow for more small group discussion, and work to create a safe environment where everyone passes the ball.

3. It takes too long to get people in brainstorming mode:

Brainstorming “cold” is a disadvantage. Add in a game or excercise before brainstorming starts to help participants become more alert, present, relaxed, and “brain-fried”!

Playfulness relaxes group tension, and in this state, individuals exhibit less rigidity in their thinking and fewer inhibitions around ideas.

4. The room is too stiff – my people aren’t relaxed

Research tells us an environment of playfulness and humor is conducive to creativity. If your office environment doesn’t support this, that is something to note.

In addition to providing a playful warm-up, take a good look at how your environment contributes to the creativity of your workforce.

Replenish your toolkit – 6 training and facilitation soundbites for the week of April 30

One of the best parts of being in a community of educators is that there’s always something new to learn from other like-minded individuals. Call it, adding to your toolbox.

Colleagues, mentors and thought-makers are constantly swapping tips, tricks, and anecdotes to help craft our work to make it stronger, more meaningful and more relevant.

Here are some of my own reminders and learnings from the past week. I hope to make this a weekly feature you can use to replenish your own toolkit.

  1. Know your purpose – meaning, remember the purpose of each exercise/game/discussion you introduce. Does it tie back to your desired outcomes?
  2.  Don’t brainstorm cold – treat brainstorming like an athletic endeavor – to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your brainstorming sessions, prepare your team with an energizer or warmup that gets them in an alert, present, and slightly brain-fried state. You’ll get those ideas popping faster.
  3. Introverts have longer runways – remember that introverts often just need more time to process ideas and thoughts. Help them feel comfortable by giving them the topic before brainstorming sessions, and utilize more small-group discussion.
  4. Experiential learning and facilitation go hand-in-hand  – a facilitator’s job is to help lead your students to the answer (to the truth). Key to uncovering those answers is adding an experiential element to your session where participants are more active and in control of their learning. This leads to self-reflection which leads to participants finding the answers to the questions facilitators pose. What’s more rewarding – to be told the answer or to discover it yourself?
  5. Choose simplicity – key to retention (beyond adding an element of self-reflection and direct application to the work being done) is simplicity. Have you broken down your teaching points into easily digestible bites? Make sure you leave time for a wrap-up that covers key points.
  6. Observe by playing  – With just 10 minutes, you can learn and observe the dynamics of a team by playing one simple Improv-based game – key to applying an Improvisers approach to training and facilitation is recognizing that Improv is a teachable skill set, and not a comedy routine. Teach a team how to improvise, and watch their communication and collaboration soar.

In need of a creative breakthrough? Consider this…

There are moments when it seems we will never break through of our writers block, or find the solution to a nagging problem, or think of the perfect copy for an advertising client.

If you’ve ever felt creatively blocked, consider one very possible reason – your censor.

A censor is no friend to creativity, innovation or brainstorming. It’s the little judge in our brain that says (I imagine in a high-pitched British accent):

“your idea isn’t good enough/original enough/smart enough/funny enough”

“don’t bother saying that, no one will like it”

“it’s been done before”

“have another crumpet instead”.

Of course, there may be other reasons for our blockage, but getting rid of our censor is key to spontaneity, and thus, improvising. During Improv training, participants strengthen their spontaneity muscles by first become aware of their censor and then learning to control or lessen it over time. It can take a long time to ignore that voice in our heads, but I promise it gets easier with practice.

Improvisers are forced to suspend judgement on not just our ideas, but our partners ideas as well. We must truly react to whatever is thrown at us, and there is no time to sit and think about whether our ideas are strong enough. Everything we say or do is valuable and accepted.

Many of us censor ourselves (especially at work) because we don’t feel as if we can fail, take risks, or say the “wrong thing”. If you are in an environment where risk-taking, or small failures are not accepted or even encouraged, creativity can most definitely be stifled. I’ll touch on that in a later blog post.