To generate ideas, is one of the most useful skill.

We owe the evolution of our cultural and technical to ideas and intuition. Any progress is based on our imagination and creativity.

What can stop us from having idea?

Some people think that they are too old to do this creative effort. But a lot of well know people reached their peak of creative abilities at a later stage. Mark Twain had over 70 years when he created 3 more books, Goethe, Kant, Voltaire and a lot of great poets/philosophers had over 60 years whey they created new things.

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young. W. Somerset Maugham

Laziness, prejudgment, timidty, low energy and determination are obstacles that blocks our creativity that should help us to create a better future.

Some of it start when we were young. We can just say that at the age of 3 we were all entrepreneurs. We asked over 400 questions per day, we tested a lot of things and we did a lot of things.

What was the reaction of our parents ? They said: “You are not allowed to do this and that”. A 3 year old kid, is born to conquer the world, to grow in all direction, but he is forced to enter a convetional pattern. The moment the kid reaches the age of school, his thoughts do not have a freedom of his own, but followed an accepted path.

…and it continues as school…
The teaches do NOT accept a wrong answer. They react in a way that our mind becomes a street with only one way.

…and in business
Anybody who wants to work has to pick an area of work (engineer, PC etc). Any specialisation on the domain tends to kill any creative idea. The expert is the person, in a domain, that is qualified to distinguish between correct and wrong, useful or not, profitable or non-profitable. An example of this is a top manager that knows everything in which the world has nothing new to offer.

In the modern and big organizations, there are too much of obstacles that block creativity, like prejudication, fixed ideas, personal inhibition. The only way to put in place a good idea is to create an inteligent sistem of suggestion.

Two of techniques that I am going to show you to generate good ideas are called: Freewheeling and Brainstorming.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”Albert Einstein

 

Freewheeling and Brainstorming Concepts

The creator of these 2 methods is Alex F. Osborn. He showed his metioned in 1953. These 2 menthods that great success and became viral. These methods were tested by both companies and universities (in 1955, General motors began the training courses, in which almost 500 directors participated)

The method is based on the priciple of associations of ideas. In other words, one idea generates the next.

Imagine the following scenario: In one night you are with some friends partying. You re on the way to leave for home and somebody starting tell you an interesting story, then another ine, then you realize a good joke that you have to tell. Everybody present feel hyped to contribute with something and the night becames a really good night.

Probably you have experienced similar situations: an idea said by somebody, generates a thought in you heard; a word said in a middle of a converisation makes you think of something you never thought before, that generates another ? …

 

Freewheeling

Freewheeling is NOT done in a group, but individually. In freewheeling there are 2 distinct phases.

Phase1

  1. Firstly we must setup the goal as clear as possible, to concentrate on the target and then to leave the imagination free. Let’s say we want to redecorate the house, creating over 100 new possibilities
  2. We must attain from any criticism while we put our creativity to work even if the associations are completely absurd.If for example we want to throw away all our pictures or we want to remove all the windows from the house, we should not try to convince ourselves how absurd these 2 ideas are or unrealistic. Let’s always remember that any technology process involves something done tomorrow that seemed impossible yesterday.
  3. We make note of all the ideas and thoughts (we really write them down) until we have a huge list of ideas.

Phase2

The second phase is the one in which we analyse all the ideas in phase 1, so that we reject the ones that are useless, until we get to a short list of ideas. After, we analyse this short list and select the best idea.

The idea of freewheeling was put in practice in the USA and got surprising results. In a recent experiment, 80 managers were put in front of a specific problem. The tasks was to develop the employees to have more initiative in an activity.

The managers were split in 3 groups:

  1. Group1 – They had to evaluate the problem and suggest the best possible solution, individually (they could not talk between each other)
  2. Group2 – They were divided in teams of 4, that discussed the issue firstly in the team for 30 minutes. Afterwards, they had to find the best solution to the task individually (same as group1)
  3. Group3 – The whole group had to talk as a team and find common solutions.

Who do you think got the best solutions ? 

As you might think, Group3 got the best solution ?

Well, you would be wrong (as i was, i have to admit it)

The winners were the managers from Group1, that evaluated the problem and came to a solution individually. They had more ideas then Group2 and much more then Group3.

Why do you think that happened? Well because Group3 and Group2 found solutions that were somewhere in between, in that they were not terrible but not excellent as well, but they were “comfortable”. The best solution to a problem, a difficult problem, is rarely comfortable.

This experiment showed that, when we have a difficult business issues, we should always try to fix it individually and just afterwards to get the help of somebody else.

 

Brainstorming

This is similar to the freewheeling, but with the big difference that the generation of the idea is done within the group and not individually.

It has 2 phases:

Phase1 – ideas generation

A group of 6-12 people sit at a table and try to concentrate their own creativity on a specific problem. As an example: “What are our selling points to convince our customer” ?

Any idea is written until there is a list of 100-150 selling points.

In this phase, as well as in freewheeling phase1, critics are excluded, so people should try to not make remarks like “Nothing new”, “Boooring”, “So we copy the selling point from CompanyX”

The main focus of this phase is to get the highest number of selling points. The more weird an idea this the better the brainstorming session is the better!

Some remarks about phase1:

  1. The experience shows, that in average, the 70th idea is the best one (eg. the best name for a bridge, will not be found in the 1st 60 ideas. When was the last time you were so thorough.
  2. The volume of ideas is 2-3 times better after the first 15 minutes. So try to be consistent and not give up in the first 15 minutes.
  3. It is always better to not have the same people in a brainstorming session.

Phase2 – Evaluation

To pick up the best 10-15 suggestions, it is better to meet the next day and not to be done in the same day.

The ideas have to be evaluated and we have to remove the ones that do not make the cut.

Why 2 phases? 

Depending on the problem, it is possible to have different people in the second phase, it is even desired. The first phase is to include the people that have a broad imagination, so that you can generate ideas, and the second phase can include people that are expert in that domain, managers that have and will take responsibility of the implementation of the idea.

It can be easily summarised as: first phase represents chaotic ideas deposited in a big box and in the second phase those are picked up, analysed, checked, accepted or rejected.

 

Advantages of freewheeling and brainstorming

In business

Better collaboration in a much nicer atmosphere, open, optimistic and visionary. It is highly unlikely  that people participate in a freewheeling and brainstorming session to argue between each other. The meetings are short and productive and can help fix a problem that appears.

The types of sessions were also confirmed by General Electric, that saw people who graduated these type of courses to create new processes and ideas, at a rate of 3x compared to other employees.

In private life

As a reminder, these type of sessions can help also in the private life. It can be a really enjoyable way of spending a rainy Sunday and who knows, maybe there can be a lot of original ideas to go for a vacation, instead of searching on google for “Top 10 ideas for a great vacation”.

I would really like to know your thoughts on the 2 ways of generating ideas

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