Is it snowing where you are? It’s snowing here.
I’m reminded of a line from the Lou Grant pilot. Two journalists, who grew up in Minnesota, but moved to California, agree that Santa Claus in Bermuda shorts doesn’t do it for them. One of them says, “I never minded white Christmases. It was white Easters I grew to hate.”
Officially spring arrives in Calgary tomorrow morning at 5:02 AM Daylight Savings Time. Except it doesn’t really. I’m fond of the Celtic calendar, which says that spring arrived on February 2, known as Imbolic or St. Bridget’s Day. Tomorrow morning, to my way of thinking, is mid-spring.
I have a lot of funny ideas about holidays. Going with that same Celtic calendar, summer starts May 1; fall August 2; and the new year October 31. Halloween decorations and candy should never be allowed in stores until after the school supplies have been cleared. Why do we have to have the Christmas shopping season every year? Every two years would be plenty. In our house we celebrate Christmas for twelve days, from December 25 to January 6, and birthdays for an entire week.
Which means if you put me in a brainstorming group focusing on holiday celebrations, I’d be a disaster. Or would I?
In the late nineteen-forties, Alex Osborn, an ad man, promoted brainstorming. He said the best way to be creative was to have a bunch of people throw out ideas at random to be captured on a blackboard (This was before white boards). No pressure. No criticism. Quantity over quality. Once the blackboard was filled, the cream would naturally rise to the top and the group would profit from their collective wisdom. Almost seventy years later, decades of research show that brainstorming doesn’t work.
What does work?
Exposure to unfamiliar perspectives
Getting past the first layer of predictability
The power of dissent
The power of surprise
Social networks with some, not too many interconnections. Too many repeat relationships stifles creativity.
Mix old friends and newbies who are comfortable but not too comfortable together.
Put people to work within ten meters of each other.
Practice asking why.
Hold two competing things in your head: what you wish to be true, and what looks like the actual truth.
Try things you don’t like.
Pretend you have unlimited resources. Often we discount solutions because we think we can’t afford them. When you know a solution is the right one, it’s amazing how the resources come.
Do it, don’t think about doing it.
Get wet: a surprising number of ideas happen when we are in the shower or bath or have our hands in dish water.
Develop new relationships among what you already have on hand and know or can access.
Instead of writing a description of what you’ve come up with, create an icon.
Where did I get this list? One of those serendipitous chain of circumstances that I didn’t know was coming.
An article on why brainstorming doesn’t work led me to a book called The Red Thread and an article on problem solving. By a round-about way I worked myself around to another article on why brainstorming doesn’t work which nicely completed the circle.
This little journey kept me from going bananas as I contemplated the never-ending snow and the potential for a white Easter. Even if it’s not snowing where you are, I recommend you take a jaunt around this circle. Or maybe you might like to send these links to your boss the next time she suggests a brainstorming meeting.
Quote for the week
To show your true ability is always, in a sense, to surpass the limits of your ability, to go a little beyond them. To dare, to seek, to invent, it is at such a moment that new talents are revealed, discovered, and realized.
~Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986), existentialist, writer and social essayist