Brainstorming is a curious term. When ideas are required or a topic needs exploring more often than not it is brainstorming that is called for. Gather a group of interested parties together in a room and let a jolly good brainstorming session commence.
I have witnessed many brainstorming sessions and have had frequent opportunities to discuss other people’s views on the subject. What is apparent is the term brainstorming often describes these sessions all too well. Use your brains and create a storm.
Through observation and dialogue, it is clear there is often the manifestation of undesirable characteristics that occur with traditional brainstorming. Characteristics that certainly work against group thinking being as productive as it might otherwise be.
Much of this can be attributed to the adversarial nature of thinking. There is without doubt a tendency to think ‘against’ one another.
For example, one person tables an idea and the immediate reaction is for someone else to challenge it. ‘That won’t work’, ‘we can’t do that here’, ‘but if we did that, then…’ all of which are likely to lead to debate, argument and defensiveness (amongst other things) which all make a significant contribution to a lack of productive thinking.
What has been proven time and time again is that productive group thinking is massively enhanced when everyone is thinking ‘the same way at the same time’.
It follows then that the role of the facilitator or leader in a meeting should include that of managing the groups thinking. The type of thinking will be dependent upon what is required and what makes sense at a particular moment in time.
If ideas are required, then everyone should be entirely focussed on this. If you are looking to identify the potential strength or weakness of an idea, then they should be focussed on one of these.
By systematically exploring a subject in a logical and sequential manner where everyone is focussed in this way, the need for debate, argument or defensiveness is eliminated enabling all participants to be 100% focussed on the task at hand without distraction. This in turn leads to a significant increase in thinking productivity.
Most people will have heard of Edward deBono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ which is loosely based upon the above principles. The premise being that you can put hats on and take them off with the greatest of ease and similarly switch thinking on demand (each hat representing a different type of thinking).
If you would like to find out more about maximising group thinking and related subjects, do get in touch.