My friend and I were talking about what makes humans so great. We came to the conclusion that the major factors are specialization and the ability to collaborate. Together these make humans a force. Humans are at their best when they're acting as an individual in an integrated group. We experienced this at play when we were brainstorming a project to work on.
This was one of the best brainstorming sessions we’ve ever had. We both felt like it resulted in great ideas and we both felt like we contributed a lot.
What are the components of a great brainstorming session?
You vs Problem - Not You vs Each Other
This is the most essential part of a great brainstorming session. Everything else is downstream of this. When brainstorming, the people involved are on a team against the problem and not against each other. Ray Dalio talks about this in his book Principles. We must focus on getting the right answer, not being right. Who is right or comes up with the idea is irrelevant. This leads to the next most important part.
Listening To Understand
Now that everyone is working as a team against the problem, let’s be aware of an essential part of communication. Everyone needs to listen to understand. This isn’t something that’s done consciously but needs to be a mental priority of everyone in the group. When you have competent, smart, creative people in a group they’re going to release nuggets of gold. It’s everyone’s responsibility to catch those nuggets. What to do with those nuggets?
Iterate and Multiply
Let’s multiply the force of the group. An essential part here is to let all ideas come out, no matter how “dumb” they are. This is where the magic of human ingenuity comes in. We all hear “we stand on the shoulders of giants” what if we apply that on a micro-level? Any idea that comes up, keep iterating on it. The group ends up at some amazing solutions that no one would have thought of from the start. Use “yes and” to build upon ideas and the flywheel of ideas starts spinning. Most human innovation comes from iterating - leverage it.
This is a tiny piece but very important. Everyone in the group must have mutual respect for the other members. If a member isn't taken seriously, it will lead to a weakening of the whole team. The person being ignored grows resentful and then can try to talk more. Or worse, not contribute at all.
An Altered Mind
Our minds are sharp and great but are often limited by the brain's physical structure. An amazing way to get around this is to alter our consciousness a bit. This can be as simple as some coffee or even a beer or cigar. Creativity comes when we think differently, a little chemical help can make all the difference.
More to come on the project. Until then, happy brainstorming!