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Big Book of Brainstorming Games
Quick, Effective Activities that Encourage Out-of-the-Box Thinking, Improve Collaboration, and Spark Great Ideas!
By Mary Scannell, Mike Mulvihill
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Mary Scannell and Mike Mulvihill
All rights reserved.
The Weather Forecast Calls for Brainstorming
Brainstorming has probably been around as long as people have had problems and the ability to communicate. Although we don't have specific data to back this up, fire came about as a result of brainstorming. How could it not? When you have a clearly articulated problem, "We're cold," or "We need to cook our wildebeest," and a group of creative individuals ("We can do this; after all, we came up with the wheel"), who understand and follow the principle of "Ug Ug (Yes! and ...)," brainstorming is the perfect technique.
Brainstorming in its truest sense is intended to be a practical approach to problem solving.
While the technique has been used for a long time, the term brainstorming is relatively new. Flash forward to 1953. Advertising executive Alex Osborn, in his book Applied Imagination, first expressed to the masses how a well-run group of people could generate more ideas than the same number of individuals thinking on their own. The word brainstorm was coined in 1939 by a team led by Osborn. According to Osborn, "Brainstorm means using the brain to storm a creative problem and to do so in commando fashion, each 'stormer' audaciously attacking the same objective." This quote sums up Osborn's perspective on creative thinking, "It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one."
The brainstorming principles Osborn suggested are simple:
Focus on quantity instead of quality.
Allow no criticism.
Welcome far-fetched ideas.
Build upon each other's ideas.
Though there is some uncertainty that brainstorming works for every team in every situation, there is no denying that collaboration yields greater results than individual thinking. Brainstorming is a way a team can come together and generate ideas. There are additional techniques, but we recommend using the original four principles no matter what technique you choose.
Let's consider the four principles—focus on quantity, allow no criticism, welcome far-fetched ideas, build on each other's ideas—and how they not only generate ideas in a brainstorming session, but also can help build an amazing team. A team who understands the rules, grasps the reasons for the rules, and is committed to following the rules becomes a high-functioning team, whether they are in a brainstorming session or just carrying out tasks and interacting on a normal workday.
The four principles or rules become the way in which the team members relate to each other.
A focus on quantity gives your team an "abundance" mentality. Why should we withhold information and compete? There is plenty for everyone. Changes coming our way? We can handle it; we have an abundance of skills and knowledge to transform, bend, or switch direction if necessary.
Allow no criticism. What kind of environment would you create if team members were not criticized for their ideas? A team who lives this rule is a team who looks for the good in others or the upside in a situation. If our natural, or learned, tendency is to support, we will engage in dialogue to understand, instead of debating to win. We will provide feedback in a way that is respectful and helpful. Because we look for the good in the other people on our team, we have no need to backstab or become passive-aggressive. Rather than become resentful, we are happy for others' accomplishments.
Welcoming far-fetched ideas promotes creativity and diversity on your team. We associate ourselves with our ideas, so if we welcome far-fetched ideas, we welcome differences. Your team members are supportive, encouraging, and respectful of one another.
When we live the rule, "Build on each other's ideas," we become better listeners. And we listen for rather than against the other person on our team. We bring a "Yes! and ..." approach to whatever we do. We become more aware of team members and how we can bring out the best in each other. We build a team with a high level of trust.
The games and activities in this book will help you run more effective brainstorming sessions. The games and activities in this book will also help you build a better team.
Today, brainstorming seems to be a catchall word for a group of people coming together and throwing out ideas until the boss chooses the best one. Somehow along the way, we have lost the essence of brainstorming, and as a result, we are losing out on some brilliant ideas because of it.
How do we get the essence of true brainstorming back? A good place to start is with an understanding of why it works, how it works, and a belief that it will work for your group.
Why Brainstorming Works
When you combine a clear problem-statement with the unique interpretation, understanding, perspective, background, knowledge, and experience of each individual participant, you leverage a collective set of opinions, thoughts, ideas, and potential solutions. Whew!
Brainstorming works because we each have different perspectives through which we examine problems. These different viewpoints can provide an infinite number of ideas. It provides an environment to encourage the ideas and ultimately inspire more ideas.
Brainstorming allows a team to achieve the best possible results by combining all available resources. It can fast-track the gathering of information and ideas because every person in the session adds value to the outcome. Many significant contributions come about when all input is welcome and no idea is discarded.
How Brainstorming Works
First, start with a clear problem-statement or goal to provide direction. The more concise the statement, the easier it is for the group to understand the issue and come up with ideas. Sometimes articulating exactly what the issue is can be a challenge. Like all the other techniques in this book, you can get better at it with practice.
Most of us are not very comfortable with unstructured, anything-goes, free-form idea-generating sessions. To get the most of brainstorming sessions, provide a structure to allow for creativity. The structure, used consistently, will help participants become comfortable with the process, to understand what is expected, and to understand their specific responsibilities. Just because you are looking for wild and crazy ideas does not mean your session has to be a free-for-all.
An effective way to provide some structure is to use a technique such as the SCAMPER method, developed by Bob Eberle. SCAMPER is an acronym for seven thinking strategies that help groups generate more ideas:
Substitute—components, materials, people.
Combine—join two or more elements.
Adapt—change some part of the problem so it works where it didn't before; change the function.
Modify—make it bigger or smaller; change the shape, color, or other attributes.
Purpose—modify the purpose; put to another use. Think about what it's supposed to do or what it's typically used for and challenge any assumptions.
Eliminate—simplify, remove any or all elements; reduce to core functionality.
Reverse—make it go upside down, inside out, or in reverse. Make it go in the opposite direction from the one originally intended.
At any point in a creative-thinking situation, present the SCAMPER strategies to force the group to think in a different way (this technique works with individuals, too). You can use any or all of the approaches suggested by the t
Excerpted from Big Book of Brainstorming Games by Mary Scannell, Mike Mulvihill. Copyright © 2012 by Mary Scannell and Mike Mulvihill. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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