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With a theme of “Full Spectrum,” maybe it should not be a surprise the 2012 TED Simulcast featured an odd range of content quality. There was a valuable session on extreme creativity (“Session 6 – The Crowd”), an intriguing session on amazing innovation (“Session 4 – The Lab”), and an important 2012 TED session that was a disappointing mess (“Session 5 – The Earth”). After sitting through a long day of 2012 TED Simulcast presentations at Kansas City’s Nelson Atkins museum (and enduring the perennial poor food service planning plus getting booted from my original seat because someone decided we shouldn’t be creating online content from the 2012 TED simulcast), I didn’t even stick around for the day’s final session, “The City.”

Rather than profiling highlights of each “Full Spectrum” session as in previous TED and TEDxKC recaps, here are eight takeaways that apply to extreme creativity and amazing innovation from across the various “Full Spectrum” 2012 TED Simulcast talks:

1. If you create your own brand new world, do you, by definition, become a child again in that new world – a child without fear?

Regina Dugan, director of DARPA (whose mission is “the prevention of strategic surprise”) spoke about fear of failure constraining us. You can’t both fear failure and create amazing innovation. As Regina Dugan put it, kids are in touch with their inner superheroes, so they aren’t afraid of failure. If kids aren’t afraid, can we as adults replicate a youthful fearlessness through gaming and putting ourselves in situations where we don’t already know what will and won’t work? Doing so can be the key to amazing innovation.

2. Can you design an “undo button” into what you do that prompts bolder experimentation?

Jack Choi demonstrated an interactive virtual dissection table allowing surgeons to practice without cadavers. At one point, Jack Choi made a miscue, but he could hit an undo button and start over. While my tweet about the value of building undo buttons into our work triggered a contrary view from a Twitter troll, I think having something that functions as an undo button DOES lead to bolder experimentation and extreme creativity.

3. Grounding yourself in the known and familiar can trigger extreme creativity.

Materials engineer Donald Sadoway discussed developing batteries from dirt since his goal was to make something “dirt cheap” to produce energy. He starts every design challenge with the periodic table (What’s your common starting point?) and hires students for his lab because he can teach them how to think about a problem from his perspective before turning them loose seeking extreme creativity. Donald Sadoway also gives his students challenges he’s not sure will work, but doesn’t tell them so they’re primed to explore and deliver amazing innovation.

4. Create mind illusions for yourself and others to trigger the best exploration.

Whether it’s creating a faux new world, an undo button equivalent, hiding uncertainties from your team, or configuring something else designed to make you forget what you know, mind illusions are vital tools for creative thinking and exploration.

5. When you have some really cool technology, people will apparently put up with performance previously considered substandard.

I’ve been fascinated by how willing people are to embrace tiny screens and iffy resolution (reminiscent of television’s early days) because cool technology and other benefits (freedom of movement, better time management, amusement, etc.) accompany the small screens. It’s clear we’ll switch out what’s important based on a whole array of benefits. Vijay Kumar presented fascinating videos of his work with autonomous aerial robots. He discussed how they are be used for search & rescue, first responder missions, and construction and transportation chores. At the end of his talk, however, he showed a video of robots playing instruments to perform the James Bond theme. As a musical piece, it was plodding at best, but because it was the James Bond theme being performed by flying autonomous aerial robots, it’s clearly an amazing innovation.

 

6. How readily are we looking for places with the least information and heading directly there to build up knowledge?

One of the tasks Vijay Kumar demonstrated with the autonomous aerial robots was their ability to enter unknown or damaged buildings in dangerous situations and create building maps as they encounter new sections. Kumar said the robots know to look for places with the least information, going there first to build maps. His statement stayed with me. We may know to go to the places in life with the least information, but how readily do we? Some people are explorers by nature and do it without a second thought. Others are reluctant and never learn or do as much as they could to create new knowledge.

7. You can get lots of people to help if you can get in front of lots of people who give a damn.

This idea sums up “Session 6 – The Crowd” for me. The impact of a motivated crowd ran through the session:

  • LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman discussed the need to break bread with the exceptionally large and interconnected networks technology allows us to cultivate if we expect to deliver and reap benefits from them.
  • Crowdsourced TED speaker Lior Zoref brought out an ox and asked viewers to share how much they thought the ox weighed. Five hundred people, including yours truly, submitted answers online. The crowd average: 1792 pounds. Actual weight of the ox: 1795 pounds. My answer 1800 pounds.
  • Jen Phalka, a self-described “code” activist, recruits tech people to donate time to governments for a year to help solve problems and improve the impact of government bureaucracy. One programmer wrote an app allowing people to adopt, name, and shovel out fire hydrants in snowstorms. It was subsequently modified and used in nine cities (i.e., adopting Tsunami sirens in Hawaii) to create a game out of citizens stepping up to provide services to their communities. It all comes back to creating apps (and virtual places) to make it easy for people to self-identify their interests, congregate, and do something about what matters to them.
  • Frank Warren of PostSecret.com shared some of the more than five hundred thousand secrets strangers have sent him on store bought and homemade postcards since starting his project. Thanks to their contributions, Frank Warren and PostSecret project have yielded multiple books and made his website the most visited website not running advertising. Again, it’s all about creating a virtual place for people to congregate – and allowing others to watch. Think confession + voeyeurism.

8. Decade after decade, you can’t beat a human beat box.

One of my favorite moments of the whole day was Reggie Watts – vocalist, beatboxer, and comedian. Live multi-tracking his own vocal parts, his content wasn’t traditionally crowdsourced. Instead, Reggie Watts creates his own crowd. Here is Reggie Watts with his performance from the 2011 TEDxMidAtlantic event, although his 2012 TED Simulcast performance was even more fun than this one.

 What Were Your Takeaways?

If you attended TED, a 2012 TED simulcast, or have watched some of the videos, what were your Full Spectrum 2012 TED takeaways?  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at             816-509-5320       to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Suppose your team perceives itself hitting a creative block in your organization, unable to brainstorm new business ideas.

What can you do?

Using new creative thinking exercises may push your team to more extreme creativity and many new business ideas. Bringing in an outside facilitator to lead your thinking to more uncomfortable places is always a beneficial option (let me know if you need a suggestion on someone to do this).

It could be though other factors are responsible for a perceived inability to brainstorm new business ideas. While it may feel like your team simply cannot get past a creative block to come up with new business ideas, it could very well be the issue is not creative thinking skills at all.

Have you considered these reasons for an apparent creative block?

  • Perhaps brainstorming sessions in your organization always start at the beginning without building upon business ideas you have previously identified. Your best creative thinking time investment may be working with the old ideas to move them ahead.
  • Some strong ideas you have already considered are compelling and make sense, but they have never been implemented. As a result, people keep revisiting these same old ideas repeatedly.
  • Maybe new people are participating in your brainstorming session without adequate background in your previous efforts. Never having been exposed to the same old ideas before, the same old ideas to you are new business ideas to them.
  • It could be your organization does not prioritize new business ideas after they are generated to place a higher value on moving forward with the freshest ideas.

If you find your organization facing these types of issues, what is needed could be concentrating on the same old ideas to actually initiate action and integrate them into your organization’s daily activities.

Have you successfully worked through a creative block in your organization? What strategies worked for you?

If you are feeling your ideas are not as fresh as they should be, consider how doing something with old ideas can pave the way for generating new possibilities and breaking the creative block in your organization.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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13

Jason Harper first pointed me to a podcast on the New Yorker article “Groupthink – the brainstorming myth,” by Jonah Lehrer. It was followed by a tweet from Josh Gordon asking my opinion. Additional tweets from Richard Dedor and Aaron Deacon then surfaced about the article. At that point, there was no choice but to go on record about Jonah Lehrer’s premise that brainstorming, first espoused by Alex Osborn of the B.B.D.O. advertising agency in the late 1940s, “doesn’t work.”

Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

Jonah Lehrer cited two sources challenging the effectiveness of the approach and ground rules associated with brainstorming:

  • A 1958 Yale study found students working individually generated twice as many ideas as brainstorming groups, and the ideas were judged better.
  • A 2003 study from Charlan Nemeth at the University of Berkley reported groups told to debate ideas generated 20% more ideas than those told not to judge ideas (one of the foundational brainstorming ground rules).

Lehrer highlighted several situations as further evidence that the typical approach to brainstorming doesn’t work for generating creative ideas:

  • A study of Broadway musicals showed the most successful shows had neither very high nor very low familiarity among the show’s creative forces. A moderate level of familiarity seemed to yield the most successful Broadway musicals.
  • Isaac Kohane’s study at Harvard Medical School found that among 35,000 co-authored research studies, there was a positive relationship between more frequent citations and the closer proximity of authors.
  • Several examples of the beneficial creative impact of proximity and random interactions in workspaces were discussed, citing the building arrangement Steve Jobs pushed at Pixar Animation and the Building 20 lab at MIT.
  • The Charlan Nemeth study also found dissent can more successfully stimulate free association and the creative thinking that results from it.

Jonah Lehrer wraps the Groupthink article by stating the fatal flaw with brainstorming is believing one approach leads to the best creativity. Lehrer points to the importance of group composition, diverse perspectives, cumulative unpredictable interactions among people with loose connections, and a tolerance for difficult interactions as fundamental elements for the best creativity.

Does Brainzooming Think Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

I buy where Lehrer is coming from in “Groupthink,” but that may be because of my willingness to consider “brainstorming” to be much more loosely defined than the definition Jonah Lehrer offers from “Your Creative Power,” Alex Osborn’s original book introducing brainstorming.

How Does Brainzooming Differ from Brainstorming?

My willingness to treat the term “brainstorming” loosely and tinker with what constitutes brainstorming in our world is why our process and our company are both called Brainzooming.

In developing our creative method, we already addressed the issues Lehrer raises regarding group composition, interactions, and dissent during a Brainzooming creative session.

Group Composition

We spend considerable time managing group composition for any Brainzooming creative session, making sure there is diversity in any client group. We want people with direct ties to the topic of interest, others with multi-disciplinary backgrounds, and others who are creative instigators. We strive to include some people with very little familiarity on our topic and also people who don’t all work together all the time. That level of diversity works wonders for great thinking, and our Brainzooming method allows them to work together productively despite very different (and often diametrically opposed) worldviews.

Interactions

We typically only get to design client workspaces for the Brainzooming creative sessions we create and facilitate (although it would be cool to design permanent creative spaces). We design a creative space featuring dramatically more room per person than most facilities want to accommodate. Designing this type of session layout promotes frequent physical movement and rotations among table and group assignments so there are plenty of new creative connections happening.

Dissent

We do start Brainzooming creative sessions by saying, “Do not criticize ideas.” Given how easy it is for most groups to savage one another’s ideas, our admonition is at best a way to slow down criticism. We have actually started to introduce a variation on the rule in Brainzooming creative sessions asking people challenging ideas to also offer better alternatives.

What Did We Learn from the “Groupthink” New Yorker article?

The awakening for me in the Jonah Lehrer Groupthink article and my reaction to it is the need to speak more precisely about what The Brainzooming Group does. Precise descriptions of what we do are not something I’ve spent too much time addressing. Frankly, it’s more comfortable for me to be very muted in talking about what we do. As a result, I usually talk about our Brainzooming method as me simply having pulled together ideas from a variety of sources. If you want to call it “brainstorming,” that’s been okay. If you want to call it anything else that’s reasonably accurate, that’s been okay, too.

In reality, we’ve built a creative approach with Brainzooming that’s highly flexible and infused with techniques from sources as varied as big time consulting, strategic planning, creative thinking, market research, self-help methods, reality tv shows, design, and improv comedy – to name a few. The Brainzooming approach has been tested, adapted, and refined through hundreds of strategy, innovation, and creative sessions in some environments that were incredibly hostile toward creativity. We have delivered real results with the Brainzooming approach, even when we had senior managers actively hoping we would not be successful.

I have talked about what we do as brainstorming, because it is the easy way to talk about it, but it is not simply brainstorming.

What we do is Brainzooming.

And if you have a need for better ideas that can actually be implemented successfully, we’d be honored to show you what results the Brainzooming approach can deliver for your organization. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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18

Creative idea people - Idea MagnetDo you know people who seem to have an incredible ability to surround themselves with creative idea people? Not only are these individuals creative idea people themselves, they cultivate creativity in those around them with amazing ease. I call them “idea magnets.”

Recently recalling the “idea magnets” I have known and worked with throughout my career, you cannot help but marvel at how they bring out incredible creative thinking and, more importantly, incredible creative implementation, in others.  All that plus they are fun to be around!

11 Vital Creative Characteristics of Idea Magnets

How do you spot an idea magnet? Based on my experiences, you are typically going to find these creative idea people:

  • Absorbing diverse, creativity-instigating reference points all the time.
  • Asking rich questions of others.
  • Listening before they talk.
  • Generalizing opportunities and challenges to find analogous situations from which to expand creative possibilities.
  • Connecting people, resources, and ideas that are both obvious and not at all obvious creatively.
  • Easily moving between foreground and background in group settings.
  • Embracing a deliberate “and” orientation that characterizes creative thinking.
  • Being very supportive when a creative idea (and an idea generator) is new and needs lots of support.
  • Enthusiastically cheering for others to be successful creatively.
  • Displaying boldness for both stretching what is possible and for envisioning the impossible.
  • Making challenging decisions when an idea has outlived (or is about to outlive) its usefulness.

What about the Idea Magnets in your life?

What creativity-instigating characteristics would you add to this list? What have the idea magnets you have experienced done to bring out great creative thinking in others?

Maybe you are an idea magnet yourself. What do you do to cultivate creative thinking and ensure that you are surrounded by other idea people?

Let’s grow this list of creative characteristics and work on being better at doing what an idea magnet does well! – Mike Brown

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Photo by: madochab | Source: photocase.com

It is Ash Wednesday today, the start of Lent. This liturgical season marks a call to increased prayer and refraining from the distractions of day-to-day life. Over the past several years, it’s become a tradition on Ash Wednesday to share a creativity prayer I wrote in 2008 for a presentation on creative inspiration.

If you’re experiencing creative challenges, invest some of time today and in the next weeks asking for a potentially new creative inspiration source with this creativity prayer. My hope is that doing so will help you better conquer your creative challenges through enhancing your creativity and the creativity of those around you!

Lord,

Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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14

Reviewing Brainzooming Google Analytics for the past month, the most frequent search term people are using to find the Brainzooming blog is “brainstorming.” These Google Analytics results prompted me to share a variety of Brainzooming posts related to brainstorming techniques on Twitter last Saturday.

Because of this, here are the brainstorming techniques shared on Twitter plus a few other posts on various related aspects, many of them tied to the Google Fiber brainstorming sessions we conducted in October 2011:

Brainstorming Session Expectations

1. A Career-Changing Business Quote – 10 Years Later – A fantastic setup for the value of brainstorming techniques and their importance in anticipating what you can’t specifically anticipate.

2. The Value of Brainstorming Techniques for Business Ideas – Brainstorming is seen by some as an unproductive, low yielding activity. The people who think brainstorming techniques don’t provide value are simply wrong.

3. 7 Things a Brainstorming  Session ISN’T – Some people think a brainstorming session can cure all the issues plaguing a business. The people who think brainstorming techniques can do all this are simply wrong. 

Brainstorming Session Design

4. “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” – Our free eBook on Taking the NO Out of InNOvation is a tremendous resource to get yourself and your team ready in planning a productive brainstorming session.

5. Not Even One of These Things Is Not Like Another – When you choose who will be in your brainstorming session, make sure to build in plenty of diversity.

6. Looking for the Elusive Big Idea – You don’t want to start looking for a BIG idea. Look for big volumes of ideas and then find the clear winners within that list.

7. Put Yourself in a Sticky Situation for Strategic Thinking Exercises – We’re making an interesting investment in a really powerful tool to do more of our brainstorming sessions online, but we’re still big fans of sticky notes for many reasons.

8. Extreme Creativity – 10 Questions from Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives – Extreme creativity can come from anywhere. We try to pull from a variety of reality TV shows and other sources to maximize how extreme creativity can help drive brainstorming results.

9. Creative Thinking Exercises for When You’re Successful – Sometimes a team has been together for so long and had so much success, it’s tough for the team to imagine doing anything differently. You can build on past success as a platform for new ideas though.

10. A Creative Thinking Exercise to Boost Team Energy & Ideas – One way to brainstorm really bold ideas (and have a lot of fun along the way) is to deliberately try to tweak your authority figures.

Participant Roles

11. Brainstorming Success & Saying “Think Outside the Box” Don’t Mix – Brainstorming success isn’t just about telling people to “think outside the box.” It’s important to actually create an environment that triggers creativity and new ideas.

12. Strategic Connections – 3 Tips for Identifying More Opportunities – The more strategic connections you can create among ideas, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate in a brainstorming session.

13. Thinking Aloud: Can You Hear What I’m Thinking? – There’s real value during a brainstorming session to having participants voice their ideas so others can hear them and build on them.

14. Brainstorming Session Success – 8 Ways to Contribute Beyond New Ideas – Although generating ideas is the objective with any brainstorming session, there are other important roles participants can and need to play as well.

15. Subtle Forms of Censorship – It’s valuable to have an organization’s leaders actively participating in brainstorming sessions. You have to make sure their behaviors, however, don’t lead to ideas being censored.

16. How Creative Thinking Gets Killed by Team Members – 8 Fatal Blows – Leaders aren’t the only ones who can censor ideas from other brainstorming participants. Participants can censor and beat up on each other, too. Those behaviors have to be managed.

17. Dilbert and Brainstorming for Innovative Business Ideas – Of course Dilbert has a funny and dark perspective on brainstorming. And unfortunately, the funny and dark perspective on brainstorming in this Dilbert comic strip happens all the time.

After a Brainstorming Session

18. 11 Next Steps for Brainstorming Output – Shared in relation to the Google Fiber brainstorming session, these 11 next steps for brainstorming output apply broadly to a whole variety of brainstorming sessions.

19. Dirty Ideas? Let Others Help Clean Up Your Creative Thinking – It’s not always to your advantage for the brainstorming facilitator to clean up and categorize the ideas. Someone who has a fresh perspective may be able to shed even more light on the results.

20. Brainstorming for Later Use – Not every idea you’ll generate in a brainstorming session has to be used right away. Always be on the lookout for ideas whose time may come later.

21. Extending Brainstorming Ground Rules to Everyday Business Life – Why not try and make these brainstorming ground rules a part of your daily work life. It’s possible, and can help you attract new ideas on a very regular basis.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Six Tweets of Mine

1. Even seemingly low objectives can be impossible to reach.

2. The person driving slow that you’re following always speeds up after making it through the red light you’re stuck at.

3. You have to be willing to park what you know to change and try a new way of doing things.

4. You can’t implement new thinking half-way or even three-fourths of the way and have your change be a success.

5. It’s hard to concentrate on what should be our real priorities when we’re full.

6. It’s tough to express your creativity amid rampant, persistent negativity.

Six Tweets from TV and Movies

1. “Is losing fun?” – Billy Beane, Moneyball

2. “I didn’t have any facts, but I had stereotypes to work with.” – TV interview quote

3. “You can’t belittle others because you aren’t so hot yourself!” – Mother Angelica

4. “I’m willing to bet that you’re full of good ideas, but what you lack is confidence.” – Broadway Danny Rose

5. “We change by staying the same.” Restaurant owner on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives

6. “You can’t ride two horses with one behind.” – Broadway Danny Rose

– Mike Brown

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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