Monday, 3 September 2012

Another reason brainstorming won’t work

 Following my hugely popular encomium on the myth of brainstorming, I’m following up with another dear reader.
One of the inherited rules of a brainstorm, is the expectation you’ll arrive at ‘the answer’ having been handed out bags of toys, marker pens, post-it notes, squeezy balls and water pistols. After 5 minutes of coaching on how to think ‘big’ and ‘like a child’ you’ll be given the freedom to dick about for an hour or so and arrive at the perfect solution.
You won’t.
There seems to be a fashion with the creative gurus that we were all once like children (cue joke about being born 30 if we weren’t once a child) and that we’ve grown up and out of child like thinking.  Stats (yawn) tell us children smile 1000 times a day and adults but 10 (or whatever it is) and of course let’s not forget the beautiful, ubiquitous and now a little over done TED Talk from Sir Ken Robinson.
I get it.
Now move on.

It’s too simple an argument and without any difference to what other people say.
Actually, kids are brilliant at having thoughts and not ideas.  Granted you don’t have to tell a 6 year old how to play or have fun, make up games and play dragons, fight wizards, draw monsters, imagine castles, pixies and flying fish.
They’d be shit at solving a behaviour change programme for an investment bank though wouldn’t they.
We ask adults to think not like a child, but to adopt the childlike approach of ‘anything is possible’ and ‘without boundaries we can challenge the norms’ etc. I get all that, I really do. I was also a teacher for 7 years so I don’t need the lecture.
What children can’t do is the other way around bit.They can’t think ,like adults my considering all the challenges, rules, regulations, permissions, politics, norms, cultural sensitivities, costs, time constraints and logistics.  They can’t do this as their experience isn’t that of an adult.  Children are brilliant at being children and doing what they do best – having time to think extraordinarily.
The whole we knock creativity out of them piece is wrong, we just layer learning the way it falls over time through a curriculum. The joy of going on a adult learning creative course is we can look back on all that experience and then judge it and turn it on it’s head.
We can’t do that from the start – much to the disappointment of Sir Ken – as it wouldn’t work. You can’t creatively break rules unless you’ve got some rules to break in the first place!
The best help in any problem IS the problem.  It comes with all you need to solve it – if you listen carefully said one ex-boss to me, you’ll hear the answer. Wise words. His business became MORE profitable and successful in the recent recession...
If you’re having a brainstorm. You don’t need the bean bags and fairy lights.
You need the problem.  Explain it, explain it again and again and again.
Then have discussions.
Then allow the thoughts to muse.
Then go home.
Have a bath.
Take some notes and doddle.
Watch Discovery Channel.
Play with some blu tac.
Go to bed and sleep on it and back at work the next morning have another honest discussion about the project.
But don’t’ whatever you do force yourself and the team to solve a crisis in 30mins.

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