Sunday, 10 August 2014

Design Thinking: The greatest Danger to Brainstorming! (In defense of Brainstorming - Part 2)

(A little while ago Fast Company's Rebecca Greenfield wrote a piece entitled "Brainstorming Doesn't Work; Try this technique instead". I wrote a response: "In Defense of Brainstorming (aka you may not need Brainwriting)", but I realized *now* that I had forgot to add what I think is instead the biggest obstacle to Brainstorming, so this Part 2 attempts to address that.)

There are *many* obstacles to a good Brainstorming session, but the actual biggest *danger* I believe is not having enough 'quality' ideas and especially getting those amazingonce-in-a-lifetime radical ideas. It's the same principles regarding Quantity and Quality of ideas.

(For more info on why I believe quantity begets quality, see a previous post on 50 lbs of clay and how Quantity also intrinsically begets Quality.)

User Interview/Insight expert Steve Portigal has a great graph I like to use to illustrate the divide between the 'first wave' of pedestrian ideas and the 'second wave' of magical of "Wacky, transgressive, innovative, breakthrough, weird" ideas. Steve goes so far as to say we need to slough through the 'bad ideas' to get to this 'second wave'.

(Steve Portigal - Power of Bad Ideas)
As good Design Thinking coaches and Brainstorming facilitators we need consciously to *PUSH* to get people into the 2nd hump or 'second wave'.

This is why as part of Part 1 of this post, we have rules #1, #2, #6 & #8

  1. Defer Judgment - to prevent smoothing radical ideas
  2. Go for volume - to push envelope to get to great ideas
  3. One conversation at a time - to ensure everyone gets a voice
  4. Be visual - to stimulate right-side of the brain and communicate efficiently
  5. Headline - to communicate efficiently, allowing iterate through ideas quickly
  6. Build on the Ideas of others - to help iterate and evolve ideas
  7. Stay on topic - keep sessions moving and prevent time wasting
  8. Encourage wild ideas - getting past the easy, obvious ideas
(8x Rules for Brainstorming)

Over the years I've personally become more keenly aware of passing through the barrage of easy ideas ('first wave'), into the more difficult silence or lull of little/no ideas and then finally into the flood of 'second wave' ideas.

(1st Wave vs. 1st & 2nd Wave Brainstorming)
The above graphics attempts to show the difference between simply settling with only 'first wave' Brainstorming vs. 'first wave' and 'second waveBrainstorming. In this example, it's 7+ more Ideas Total and 3+ more Great Ideas.

Funders and Founders Anna Vital has a great post called How Many Times You Should Try with an info graphic that shows James Dyson tried 5126 prototypes before his initial success. How close are you to Brainstorming out that truly great idea? Are you giving up before the second 'hump'?

If you want to keep doing additive or derivative innovation, don't worry about what Steve Portigal is talking about. You can Brainstorm out the next iPad-mini from the normal sized iPad, basically a slight/marginal improvement over the original. (BTW Apple/Tim Cook, if you reading this, maybe you should 'invent' the *new* iPad-Biggie while you're at it...)

OR *IF* you want to do something disruptive and truly innovative, to build that first iPad, iPod, or iPhone, then I encourage to have a look both the Quantity and Quality of ideas your next Brainstorm.

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. There is no magic number of post-it-notes where the you know you are getting the 'second wave' of ideas. However it's not uncommon when I get a group as small as 5 people to aim for 150 post-it-notes within a 30 minute session.

5 people x 30 mins ==> 150 Ideas

It sounds radical, but it is really is a reasonable target. The first 50-100 will probably be 'first wave' ideas. If you push really hard, often you can get an extra 50-100 ideas if you are consciously about it. (As your diverse, T-shaped, multidisciplinary teams evolves, you'll easily surpass this target! Honest.)

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