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? 

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.

Do you have a creativity barrier? Take this 5 question quiz…

Everyone has the ability to be creative and innovative.  And sometimes, we are our own worst enemy in keeping our creativity at bay.

Turns out, the key to unlocking your creativity starts with changing your mindset.

This article, released today from HBR includes a five-question diagnostic to assess your creativity barrier:

“Do you agree with the following statements? A simple yes or no works fine for each one.

Associational thinking: I creatively solve challenging problems by drawing on diverse ideas or knowledge.

Questioning: I often ask questions that challenge others’ fundamental assumptions.

Observing: I get innovative ideas by directly observing how people interact with products and services.

Idea Networking: I regularly talk with a diverse set of people (e.g., from different functions, industries, geographies) to find and refine new business ideas.

Experimenting: I frequently experiment to create new ways of doing things.

If you answered no to three or more questions, then you’re probably bumping into the “I’m not creative” barrier.”

Becoming more creative requires taking small steps each day to flex your creativity muscle. But if you don’t think you are creative, you are less likely to engage in the behaviors that will build these muscles.

The definition of creativity changes with each person, and each organization and it can be a sensitive topic especially if you are in a “creative” industry. Figure out what’s keeping you from being more creative – are you censoring yourself, are you holding yourself back, and are you your own worst creativity enemy?

Crush the “I’m Not Creative” Barrier – Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen – Harvard Business Review.