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Problem-Solving—Creativity Using Brainstorming

Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.
ALBERT CAIRNS

Imagination rules the world.
ALBERT EINSTEIN

Problem-solving requires creativity, but most adults, as a result of negative feedback while growing up, have lost the majority of their creative ability by age forty.

  1. Problem-solving is something you do all the time. When the problem affects a number of people and it is complex, it is best to get the affected people together to solve it. This way, you're likely to have two benefits:

    • The solution will probably be better than any one person can come up with.

    • You will have commitment to its implementation.

  2. Call a meeting of people who have an interest in solving a particular problem. Here are things to do in preparation:

    • Warn people about the meeting at least a week in advance so they have time to think about the subject.

    • Plan to get a variety of ideas by inviting people with different backgrounds and diverse skills to add fresh perspectives.

    • Include in your group at least one person with the reputation of being a maverick.

    • Choose a location. The more informal and unusual the environment, the more creativity you can expect.

  3. Your meeting will be successful if you do these things:

    • Before the meeting starts, get people into a creative and relaxed frame of mind with an icebreaker.

    • Restate the purpose of the meeting. Indicate your desire to encourage new ideas.

    • Appoint a recorder to write all ideas on a flip chart.

    • Use brainstorming to generate ideas. Explain the rules of brainstorming:

      • Quantity. Get as many ideas as possible. Don't worry about quality.

      • No discussion. Discussing issues will reduce the number of ideas. Leave discussion and comment until afterwards.

      • No criticism. Don't judge ideas. Early evaluation will stifle the development of unusual ideas.

      • Record. Record ideas on a flip chart, where they are visible.

      • Piggyback. Build on ideas. A ridiculous idea might spur a very practical idea from someone else.

      • Incubation. If you run out of ideas, leave your list and return to it later. You will usually find that participants have more new ideas.

    • Conduct a round robin. Ask people to call out their ideas one at a time, in rotation. Those who don't have ideas can pass.

    • Keep the process moving quickly. When you sense that ideas are drying up, encourage contributions from anyone, rather than by rotation.

    • When all ideas have dried up, revisit the list so the team can piggyback. Use these ideas to spur new ones.

    • If you are dissatisfied with the ideas on your list, give the group more time to incubate. Collect more ideas after a break or a few days later.

    • Only when all ideas are exhausted should you refine the list. Eliminate duplications. Evaluate ideas based on criteria such as

      • payback period;

      • novelty;

      • cost;

      • benefit;

      • ease of implementation.


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