Generating great ideas – Part II
I am currently discussing the issue of coming up with great ideas – where innovation starts. In the previous article I made the case that creativity and idea generation is a skill that organisations can develop and can get better at. I also busted the myth of the lone genius and established that coming up with great ideas is a team effort.
In this article, I want to look at specific idea generation techniques, so I want to touch on a well-known method for generating ideas in a group format, Brainstorming, and a lesser known – but very effective – method, Anticonventional thinking.
Brainstorming is by far the most well-known and probably the most used group ideation technique. It is perhaps due to the fact that it has become so “commoditized” that it has received a bad rap lately, but I can assure you, if used correctly, it is still one of the most powerful methods of generating great ideas and can not only produce fantastic ideas, but actually bring teams together and get them invested in a project as well. In my view, the facilitator, venue and attitude in which it is done, make all the difference.
I have seen some brilliant videos on YouTube on how to conduct successful brainstorms, and I urge readers interested in this method to tap into these resources, but I do want to share a couple of pointers on how to run a successful brainstorming exercise: 1). State your challenge correctly. To get the right ideas, you need to ensure that you are giving the brainstorming participants the right challenge, otherwise, you could end up with a lot of ideas which do not actually solve your problem. 2.) Mixed participants. When brainstorming works well, it is because the session taps into the combined creativity of all the participants. 3.) Enthusiastic facilitator. A good facilitator must keep the session energised, have a sense of humour and a knack for encouraging people to contribute ideas and be creative in their thinking. 4.) A good environment with no disturbances. I also want to touch on a fresh technique developed by Jeffrey Baumgartner, called Anticonventional Thinking, or ACT, shared here with his permission. ACT is modelled after the way highly creative people, such as artists, writers and composers collaborate on projects; current research into how the mind solves problems; and the need to implement ideas. As the name implies, ACT is about rejecting conventional thinking in favour of unconventional thinking in the creative process. It also rejects a lot of conventional notions about how to be creative, especially in groups. Unlike brainstorming, creative problem solving (CPS), brainwriting and many other idea generation techniques that focus on generating large numbers of ideas, stressing quantity over quality, ACT aims to generate just one creative vision. Moreover, ACT breaks the cardinal rule of brainstorming: ACT not only permits criticism during the idea generation phase, but positively encourages it. Brainstorming and the like work on a diverge (lots of ideas) and then converge (reject ideas, combine ideas) basis. ACT uses a variable focused approach to develop an unconventional, creative vision. In short, brainstorming, CPS and similar techniques are about generating lots of ideas, ACT, on the other hand, is about playing with ideas to build a vision and an action plan. The steps of ACT are: 1.) Deconstruct and understand the situation. 2.) Create a sexy goal. 3.) Devise, debate and develop ideas. 4.) Outline an action plan. There is a lot of resources on ACT on the Internet which you can look into.
Now that the team has generated some mind blowing ideas, you realise that you do not have the capacity (by far) to implement all the ideas, but which ones go ahead and which ones get the axe? So next time I will spent some time on evaluating and choosing the best ideas. I conclude with a quote from Rosabeth Moss Kanter: “After years of telling corporate citizens to ‘trust the system’, many companies must relearn instead to trust their people and encourage them to use neglected creative capacities in order to tap the most potent economic stimulus of all: idea power”.
Baumgartner, J. 2014. A quick introduction to Anticonventional Thinking (ACT). Online: http://www.jpb.com/creative/act.php