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Brainstorming and creativity

  1. Mar 31, 2010 #1
    I have always seen the benefits of brainstorming, such as the quantity of ideas that could be generated - the effects of brainstorming has on a group involved, such as, boosting morale, increase of work enjoyment and participation, which leads to better team work.

    When people, groups are looking for a fresh perspective, they turn to brainstorming exercices to get those juices flowing.

    The following article showed me that brainstorming has a downside : http://www.sindhtoday.net/news/2/122288.htm [Broken]

    The tricky part is to become aware of this "fixation phenomenon" and to make others aware of that.

    What strategies to adopt?

    Sorry, I haven't given much thought about it... One of my "virtual" friend on Twitter posted a link to this article few minutes ago.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2010 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Usually in a group setting you have the outspoken people that do not normally have the best ideas and the others that might have better ideas that are afraid to speak up. It can easily get into a rut that surpresses creative thinking.

    What I see in group brainstorming is the same obnoxious people trying to push their ideas on others. I'm always the one that speaks out against the pushy people, my last boss said "don't hold back, tell us what you "really" think". :tongue2:

    He appointed me to the company feedback panel for new product deployment and I was the one to escort our Executive Management when they were in town so I could share my ideas on an executive level. So, don't be afraid to knock the pushy people down.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  4. Mar 31, 2010 #3
    A rose is a rose is a rose, things are what they are. When people think in a group, you're bound to get groupthink.

  5. Mar 31, 2010 #4
    I wonder what to think about my screen name being "brainstorm" and this thread topic being "brainstorming." Oh well, I guess I'm not creative enough to come up with anything.

    As for the topic, I have often dealt with people who feel repressed or suppressed when in the presence of others who express their opinions and ideas freely without reservation.

    I used to be very careful about how much and how I expressed things, out of concern with potential negative effects on others. There's a famous quote of Nelson Mandela that speaks to this:

    A teacher once explained that expression is not a zero-sum game. People who seek the repression of others with the belief that somehow it will help free them from their repression and inhibitions are often simply looking to blame them on others out of embarrassment for their shyness. Shyness is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's something most people have to practice overcoming, and like anything else it gets easier with practice.

    If you find that you have trouble coming up with original ideas when lots of other ideas and opinions are being expressed, there's a good chance it could also be because you are used to receiving information instead of responding to it. You can practice active and/or critical reception and learn to ask questions to things others say you find interesting or point out potential problems while offering constructive insights for how such problems could be resolved.

    I find that discussions can be pretty much infinitely expansive if you are open to it. If you tend to worry about whether certain things "fit" with other things or whether they "belong" in the discussion, your brain is probably focussed more on limiting than on creative addition. That is just a pattern/habit, which can be avoided. I went through a period where I couldn't write anything because I would delete anything I wrote as soon as I started it. You have to allow for after-the-fact editing and critique. Realize that if everything came out perfect, there would never be anything to discuss.

    Think of a discussion/brainstorming as an initial pool of thoughts for later refinement. Something you throw onto the pile may not be worth much, but at least it will get/keep the ball rolling in the brainstorming and stimulate others to throw out ideas that may stimulate your creativity.

    Most importantly don't get bogged down in an ego-competition between the value of your contribution verses that of others or in blaming others or yourself for what others say/think or don't say/think because of you.
  6. Apr 1, 2010 #5
    Thanks to all of you for the feedback.

    What about adopting the principle of serendipity

    We saw that brainstorming can block out other ideas and possibilities and lead to 'Idea Fixation'
    So, in order to avoid that, a radical change must take place, the business of 'brainstorming' shouldn't be limited to a small group within a company or organization, but must go beyond the boundaries of a designated group, to take it the whole of the company or organization, to diffuse the ideas throughout the company, to bring in everyone ... to get them involved in the process.
  7. Apr 1, 2010 #6
    It seems to me that within any organization, there will be a particular group of people which can be depended upon to solve the majority of problems.

    In turn, particular individuals within the group can be depended upon to solve a particular class of problems. Though it isn't necessarily predictable which person will yield the solution to any given problem.

    I attribute this to distinctions in how each person thinks.

    One of the most prevalent distinctions being between the theorists and the empiricists. Theorists live in their minds, on paper, and in the books. All things can be explained with math, mechanization, and sound judgment.

    Empiricists don't count on things being predictable and want to look, to measure, and to mull over what they've seen.

    Another important distinction seems to go between results oriented reasoning versus a more transcendental form.

    Results oriented people seem to have more success with linking actions and reasoning back to the goals. However, this solution method tends to leave out the benefits of exploration in an effort to obtain rapid results.

    Transcendental rational seems to have the opposite effect / evil. In a universe of diverse possibilities, the thinker becomes lost. Without the mooring offered by goals, it's easy to loose sight of the task.

    With this in mind, you have a project manager who can be depended on to know realistic project expectations. You bring in your theorist and empiricist, who are both aware of the subject material. Then toss in a your imaginative person - who is also well experienced.

    Then, give them time. Start with a full blown session with a nice meal, many presentations, and discussion. Then let the team work unfettered for a "cycle time," then give them a 1 week limit for presentations. Repeat this cycle about three times. Each time, let them work unfettered. Then apply a gentle pressure until presentation.

    This method was used by the most skilled manager I've known - E Arrant
  8. Apr 2, 2010 #7
    While there may be some utility in distinguishing people into classes or specialties of thinking and practice, I think you should also reflect on how these kind of analytical divisions are themselves the product of a certain strain of analysis that produces the semblance of validity by assuming that clear categorical distinctions are more accurate and useful than overlapping categories.

    In reality, most individuals are capable of all forms of theory and practice, even if they typically tend toward some and develop strength in those, while being weaker in others and avoiding those because of relative difficulty and negative competitive relations with others who are already stronger in them. Consider this is terms of the relatively valid categories you have given as examples:

    This is the traditional distinction between theory and practice. At the abstract level, these are logically opposed ideas. In practice, however, theory and practice or (abstract philosophy and empirical philosophy) actually overlap in many ways. Ask yourself how it would ever be possible to theorize without some reference to empirical data or experience. It's not, actually. Abstract theories always draw on some level of empirical knowledge.

    The other side of the coin is that theorists who promote their theories with reference to empiricism are often just as theoretical or more so than those who think more creatively, only they conform more strictly to more socially-recognized or conventional patterns of language and analysis. This form of theory can actually stifle innovation and useful insight, because these theorists are capitalizing on the recognizability of language and concepts, often to the detriment of analytical rigor. They pull out a well-rehearsed idea or explanation and everyone else nods because they recognize the thought - everyone feels validated in their intelligence because they all got to feel like they know something "expensive sounding" and nothing beyond a sense of productivity is achieved.

    This is an interesting insight. Empiricism does ideally allow people to contradict theory with actual observation. People who insist on fitting observations into their models are actually wasting data in service of bolstering what they know.

    This is a giant problem, imo. All kinds of thinkers and doers tend to do this, though, I've noticed. By transcendental theorizing, I assume you mean theorizing that gets lost in descriptive coherency instead of staying focussed on specific reasons for theorizing and practical goals. Arguing over the best way to look at things for no other reason than it being theoretically best is actually theoretically worst. You have to validate your theoretical choices with specific goals and reasoning.

    Good observation. Add to this a culture that derides theory, thought, and reflection for little more reason than compensating for a sense of inferiority vis-a-vis people who receive privileges for their analytical abilities. This cultural pattern starts in school when more practically skilled people watch as students regarded as higher-intelligence are rewarded and privileged. Many learn to eschew this type of intelligence in order to block out the pain and humiliation of being degraded in their practical skills, ability to work hard in other ways, emotional intelligence, etc.

    People need to realize that all people are capable of all forms of intelligence and specialization and division of labor should be reduced to allow all individuals to be more well-rounded in their activities. Not everyone can or should have to do everything, but the more they are able to do, the better they are able to communicate with anyone else in any situation, and make some kind of contribution derived from their own unique set of experiences and skills. No one should feel excluded from participating in brainstorming because they are intimidated by their own lack of knowledge or relevance, imo.

    Nothing really to argue with here, except that almost everyone engages in general and macro-level claims-making, not just certain people. A lot of it is everyday theorizing that passes as common-sense, when in fact it is transcendental theorizing that has no direct connection with directly observable realities. This is a phenomenon that has amazed me. You would think practical people stick to direct empiricism, but in practice direct empiricism requires more mental discipline than intangable flights of theoretical fancy. Everyone's a scientist as long as there's no critical accountability or rigor demanded, and when someone questions their ideas, they just say "never mind" and wait to talk until they find people who agree with them.

    There's also some benefit to encouraging a culture of open discussion and theorizing on the work floor. Transitioning to another setting can encourage the kind of transcendental theorizing that can obscure practical ideas by substituting them for more abstract ones. It's not a bad idea to move around to different setting sometimes as an impetus to fresh thought, but don't underestimate the value of deconstructing the separation between theory and practice during work activities and see how innovative people can become in strategizing ways to resolve real-world problems and shortcomings of existing processes.
  9. Apr 2, 2010 #8
    Re the last paragraph. I didn't understand the mechanism of this cyclic methodology at first, but now that I've seen it used a few times, It's my preferred project management style.

    An environment conducive to free thinking detaches the team from entrenched thinking. Then, they are released to gather their thoughts, research, and experiment as individuals or small groups.
    Finally, they are subjected to a steadily increasing pressure to present. This forces a period of results oriented thinking. Documentation, design, and analysis move to the front.

    At the end of a cycle, the team is given another opportunity to relax, review, and conjecture as a team. Good and bad assumptions are far more obvious, and simple mistakes are now apparent and can be addressed.

    Repeating this cycle three times seems magic in the instrumentation business, and as my old boss used to say - hurry up and make mistakes.

    - MIke
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