Category Archives: Creative thinking

Happy World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 – 21 #wciw

WCIW keep calmRemember to share with the world what you are doing for World Creativity and Innovation Week, April 15 – 21 in an easy tweet.  #wciw

World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 – 21 celebrates the unlimited potential of people to be open to and generate new ideas, be open to and make new decisions, and to be open to and take new actions that make the world a better place and make your place in the world better too.

Enjoy your right to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

The Brainstorming Myth: a repost from EidoScope

Just in time for World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 – 21, comes this blogpost link forwarded from the International Center for Studies in Creativity 

Is Brainstorming a Myth?

Català: Imatge de pluja d'idees

The Jan 30, 2012 issue of the New Yorker carries an article entitled Groupthink -The brainstorming myth (The science of team effort) by Jonah Lehrer. The intent, apparently, of the article is to debunk the myth that brainstorming is an effective creative process. Instead, the author’s hope is to convince us that we should be thinking of creativity as a social activity that needs a healthy dose of constructive criticism to be effective.

The article begins by introducing us to the work of Alex Osborn, who in the 1940s coined the term “brainstorming” and introduced it to the world through his book “Your Creative Power”.  Like any pioneering idea, Osborn’s concept was fairly simple – get people together, let them generate as many ideas as possible, do not criticize, do not provide negative feedback. IDEO a premier design firm is thought of practicing this in its original form.  The big problem according to Lehrer, it doesn’t work. He goes on to cite many studies:  Yale study of creative puzzle solving. Groups did worse than individuals.  Apparently, “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas”.

Later in the article, he attempts to build a case for his alternative to the brainstorming myth drawing from examples of team compositions of broadway musicals, collaboration in science as evidenced by large numbers of coauthors, studio design (Pixar Animation) affording chance encounters between personnel, and the legendary Building 20 @ MIT. Along the way he is also dismissive of virtual teams (a vigorously thriving model in a world is flat environment) and long distance collaboration in general.

Here in lies the problem. The article falls prey to confirmation bias. It also becomes abundantly clear that Lehrer has not spent anytime designing or developing products under the pressures of a business environment. Most of the studies he cites were conducted in an academic setting.  He devotes a significant portion of the article to Building 20 @ MIT and seems to be simply taken in by the happenings there.  The issue I have here is that the story compresses the timelines in which the serendipitous encounters produced groundbreaking ideas. Real businesses can never afford those timelines to deliver products profitably. If anything, real businesses operate on creative steroids. Lehrer also seems to have missed the whole Open Source revolution or the phenomenon of crowdsourcing.

Now, back to brainstorming.  Having designed multiple products and being involved in multiple problem solving scenarios, the creativity process can span the whole spectrum from brainstorming as Osborn conceived it to more nuanced, hotly debated interactions.  Where you operate in the spectrum is a function of the macro or micro scope of the problem at hand. In fact, modern day usage of the term comprehends the inclusion of debate and/or feedback as part of early explorations of an idea or a solution. Merriam-Webster online defines it as

: a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; also : the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem

To be sure, there are kernels of truth peppered around the article. But Lehrer may have done well to brainstorm his ideas with his peers to gain some validity.

Creativity 1 and Creativity 2

Creativity 1: It’s Always

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. – Louis L’Amour

“Each one of us is a blend of life and death. In the most literal sense, our bodies always contain old cells that are dying and new cells that are emerging as replacements. From a more metaphorical perspective, our familiar ways of seeing and thinking and feeling are constantly atrophying, even as fresh modes emerge. Both losing and winning are woven into every day; sinking down and rising up; shrinking and expanding. In any given phase of our lives, one or the other polarity is usually more pronounced.”

“There is no path that goes all the way.” Hang Shen, Daoist poet.

Creativity 2: Question: Creativity = new ideas + new decisions. What else do we call it and where is it used?

Other names for creativity

  • invention, innovation, humour, entrepreneurship, surprise
  • unexpected, novelty, originality, new, improved, game changer
  • personal expression, new uses, new perspectives
  • evolution, revolution, incremental change, disruptive change
  • improvisation, negotiation, stabilization, facilitation, strategic plan

Where used

  • research, product development
  • raising children, teaching, budgeting
  • relationship building, health and lifestyle
  • caring for others, caring for self
  • politics, sport, entertainment, media, business
  • science, technology, psychology, urban planning
  • travel, sustainability, economics, arts
  • networking, questioning, hypothesizing, wondering
  • speaking, writing, learning, playing
  • at home, at work, at school, in community, when shopping, when selling…

 

i-am-creative-iconsWorld Creativity and Innovation Week (WCIW) is April 15 – 21.  It’s a time for you to bring your creativity into the spotlight; to use new ideas and make new decisions that make your world a bit more satisfying – without, of course, causing harm.  What might you do during WCIW in 2011 make the world a better place and to make your place in the world better too?

  • Muscles Remember Past Glory (wired.com)
    Pumping up is easier for people who have been buff before, and now scientists think they know why — muscles retain a memory of their former fitness even as they wither from lack of use.  hm…Do we have same capacity for our creativity?
  • After the Show: The Many Faces of the Performer (psychologytoday.com)
    Creativity researchers aren’t so confused. They have long-ago accepted the fact that creative people are complex. Almost by definition, creativity is complex. Creative thinking is influenced by many traits, behaviors, and sociocultural factors that come together in one person (see “Could Michael Jackson Have Created Twitter?”). It would be surprising if all of these factors didn’t sometimes, or even most of the time, appear to contradict one another.