Friday, October 1, 2010

Creativity techniques I - Brainstorming

With creativity techniques and creative problem solving techniques you can boost your creativity. You can promote your ideas and develop new ideas that may help in solving your problems.

There are hundreds of different techniques. Some of them require groups with several people others can be executed alone. There are written exercises, word games or improvisation.

One of the most known creativity techniques is brainstorming. Brainstorming can produce a variety of new and unusual ideas within a short period of time. If you are at the very beginning with your problem solution, but you have a fairly specific question, then brainstorming can prove very useful. You can actually use this technology in all areas. Brainstorming works especially well when experts from different areas have to work together. However, complex problems cannot be solved easily with brainstorming. Also when having tension within the group, brainstorming is not appropriate.

You need four to 20 people and a moderator, who will record every suggestion and idea. You also need a flip chart or a board to list all ideas.

The brainstorming session consists of two phases, the production of ideas and the evaluation phase.

It is important that no criticism is allowed during the phase of idea production! No idea can be evaluated here. All suggestions and ideas are welcome, no matter how wacky they are. Ideas that were already mentioned can and should be recombined. The phase of idea production should not take more than five to 30 minutes. In most cases, however, after five to ten minutes people make less suggestions. Do not stop the production of ideas yet! After a short time, more ideas that might be even more original will come up.

All ideas are written down immediately by the moderator. He/she should not be involved in the brainstorming and under no circumstances should he/she make own suggestions. However, the moderator should make sure there is a pleasant atmosphere. He/she should also encourage the group to participate. The moderator has to ensure that ideas are not actually evaluated during the idea production phase. All ideas have to be recorded by him - without hanging anything and without making comments.

After producing idease, you should take a break. This break can be a few minutes or even an entire day.

During the evaluation phase objective criticism is welcome. All ideas are evaluated and are studied regarding their feasibility. The moderator must ensure that the evaluation stays objective.

You can decide at the beginning, if you want to make a pre-seleciton or if the group will evaluate every single idea. You can also choose an order or choose only a single idea and have it developed by the group.

Variations of brainstorming:
  • Stop and go brainstorming
    Go back and forth between idea production and evaluation (each phase should last five to 10 minutes).
  • Destructive/constructive brainstorming
    Divide the phase of idea production. First, negative (destructive) suggestions are made that prevent a solution. Then, constructive ideas are produced.
  • Single brainstorming
    Here you do the entire brainstorming session alone, without a group. The process remains the same. Do not evaluate your ideas during the first step. Before evaluating, take a break - even one or two days is fine.
  • Sandwich brainstorming
    Change between phases of collective and individual production of ideas.

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