Tag: Beyond Brainstorming

14
Apr

BRAINBOOM 2 in Madrid

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Next week Humantific will be back in Spain rocking with BRAINBOOM 2!

Humantific CoFounder Elizabeth Pastor will return to the European Institute of Design in Madrid to lead a new crop of graduate students in the 3 day BRAINBOOM experience April 22-24.

Designed by Humantific last year BRAINBOOM! | innova, visualiza, colabora is a next generation orientation program designed for entering graduate students to rapidly become familiar with their new colleagues, new environment and learn collaborative innovation skills that will help them succeed in their diverse programs. These synthesized innnovation skills are becoming the new 21 century fundamentals for all forms of cross-disciplinay work.

The BRAINBOOM skill-building experience also helps graduate students to begin thinking about how to visualize and actionize their future aspirations and goals. Special thanks to the IED faculty and staff for a great collaboration!

From the previous session see The Energy of BRAINBOOM.

Check it out European Institute of Design (IED) here.

Upcoming Humantific Public Sessions in Madrid

In addition to BRAINBOOM at IED, Humantific will be doing an open, free public introductory session in Madrid April 29. This session will focus on Visual SenseMaking. Stay tuned for more details.

Interested in Future Workshops?

Humantific is passionate about helping to build next generation innovation leadership skills and cultures. Creating innovation skill-building workshops for academic institutions is only one of numerous work streams that we have underway. Our primary focus remains on building innovation capacity in large organizations. We work with organizational leaders from many industries in numerous countries. If you would like to consider bringing Humantific in to your organization to help with your innovation skill-building and innovation capacity building we would be happy to have a conversation with you.

Feel free to send us an email: engage (at) humantific (dot) com.

 

19
Dec

Beyond Brainstorming

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What Humantific Clients Already Know…

Andy Warhol was once asked in an interview what he thought about Jasper Johns. Andy replied that he thought Jasper was great. The interviewer then asked why he thought so. Andy replied, “Because he makes great lunches.”

Well that’s kind of a good way to think about brainstorming too. Practitioners of team facilitation with years of experience can see value in brainstorming and like Andy’s perspective shift on Jasper, probably not from the direction that you might expect and certainly not for the reasons being endlessly debated in the mainstream media these days.

Here at Humantific we often ask ourselves; what’s the big deal about brainstorming? Other than driving attention to websites what’s the hullabaloo in the media all about? The topic seems to translate into a lot of dogs chasing tails when with a little more context, a little more insight, that energy could be better invested elsewhere.

As we have pointed out to our readers on this blog several times: In this innovation enabling industry; “It is widely recognized that brainstorming has not been considered a stand-alone creative methodology or technique since the late 1950s. No leading innovation consultancy that we know of [including Humantific] uses any version of brainstorming as a standalone method.”

In most practice-based innovation skill-building programs, including Humantific Academy, brainstorming in its various reinvented forms is considered introductory skill, boot camp level knowledge. Once organizational leaders are engaged in their innovation journey they rapidly see that serious innovation capacity building is like building a house. Saying brainstorming is ineffective is akin to saying a hammer doesn’t work to build a house. Clearly you are going to need more than a hammer! Yes indeed you will need to conceive of the house design before you start building and once under way you will need an arsenal of tools in your innovation toolbox not just a hammer. In addition to a great design and multiple tools, you need the deep knowledge of the house building process. No organizational leader that we work with today operates under the assumption that mastering brainstorming is going to get the innovation job done.

To build that innovation house will not only require a variety of tools, you will also need to know how to use them effectively. As a skilled cocreation facilitator, you should have many tools and know how and when to use them. Walking around as a hammer is not very effective. As an innovation leader what you want to have in your back pocket is more like a Swiss-army-knife.

For seasoned facilitation practitioners the key to extracting the value of brainstorming is to understand its ingredients, its DNA, the ‘what’s inside’ part and then know what is needed to reconfigure those elements in ways that bring to bear their full power. Experienced practitioners know how to get at the key ingredients and how to reformulate their value in the context of everyday work. This is “the great lunch” of brainstorming.

Years after brainstorming was created, Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes had already embarked on that reformulation road when they shifted towards a more powerful mash-up that included what we now refer to as root behaviors that operate inside an adaptable framework that is focused, not on ideation but rather moves from fuzzy front end through to implementation and today measurement. Osborn and Parnes recognized early on that much more than brainstorming was going to be required. Don’t miss that turn in the road.

Shift and build, shift and build more or less describes the continuous cycle of knowledge construction that has been occurring ever since. Many experts and non-experts have made contributions to that ever-evolving knowledge field at the center of this hybrid community of practice. If you miss all the shifting and building that has occurred it is unlikely that you will understand what’s needed and what’s possible today.

At this point, many additional tools, instruments, techniques, refinements and ways of working have been added or subtracted to that knowledge soup. Of course the hammer itself has also been redesigned many, many times and is today a shadow of its original self. For this reason, we don’t expend energy re-debating the effectiveness of the 1953 perspective as it has long ago been superseded.

From the early pioneering days of addressing relatively simple challenges to the current era of tackling highly complex fuzzy situations, integrating upstream framing and data/information visualization, there are two things that have remained constant. However you choose to slice and dice all of those many knowledge additions the principles of skills and behaviors remain key elements today.

It is mastery of root innovation behavior orchestration in the context of multiple disciplines that holds the possibility for organizations to create sustainable adaptive cultures today. Unless you are up for the long, painful route to house building, don’t miss that key ingredient.  Even if you seek to put your house on wheels or attach wings, a strong foundational platform is crucial to its success. In sustainable innovation culture construction everything builds from foundational root behaviors. It sounds easy. It’s the getting there that takes the real work.

If your organizations’ goal is to build capacity for proactive innovation, changemaking, adaptability, flexibility, fluxability, resilience, whatever you choose to call that, you will want to set your sights far beyond the capacity to simply generate ideas. Forward thinking leaders in every industry are busy on-boarding advanced innovation skills to the point where having them has already become an essential component in many next generation leadership programs. The truth is root behavior mastery is foundational to many advanced innovation skills. Mastering those behaviors individually and collectively represents an important step along the skills progression ladder, not the current end state of innovation capacity-building today.

Thanks again for the perspective shifts Mr. Warhol. Lets all have a great lunch on Andy today!

GK VanPatter & Janet Getto

Humantific’s 3 Universal Beyond Brainstorming Principles:

1. BrainFraming Preceeds BrainStorming

Unless you have undertaken some form of upstream framing with multiple participants there is a 75% chance that your brainstorm is being focused in the wrong direction, at the wrong altitude on the wrong problem. Before you begin, back-up and make sure you are pointing your brainstorm in the right direction. Conscious real-time participatory reframing is now possible. Understanding context of the challenge precedes getting to a strategic and meaningful launch point for ideation.

2. Everyday Innovation Trumps Brainstorming

Don’t wait for special occasion “brainstorming sessions” to skill your team from a behavioral perspective. Embed mastery of generative thinking as separate to evaluative thinking as one root behavior in your everyday innovation learning program. Do the work to understand that the behaviors appear in every meeting, in every organization, in every industry, in every country, everyday. Make an investment in understanding the dynamics of everyday innovation.

3. Practical Realizations Trump Media Slogans

Forget the endless sloganeering being generated in the media to attract readers. Stay grounded in real needs and practical realizations. Connect root behaviors directly into your already existing corporate values. If you have identified diversity and innovation as among your values you are half-way home. Now do the work to figure out how root behaviors are connected to these values. Doing such work represents a much smarter investment than reading yet another armchair experts blog post on “Let’s Kill Brainstorming”. Lets understand what trumps what and keep moving forward beyond individual techniques and towards inclusive innovation culture building.

Related:

Making Sense of Alex Osborn

Lost Stories Applied Creativity History

Teaching Complexity Navigation

18
Apr

Innovation Methods Mapping Preview

Two + years in the making, Humantific, in concert with OPEN Innovation Consortium is sharing the preview version of the new book:

Innovation Methods Mapping / DeMystifying 80 Years of Innovation Process Design.

If you would like to send us a comment, or be placed on the pre-order list for the print version of the book please feel free to leave a comment below and or email: methodsmapping (at) openinnovationconsortium (dot) org

OVERVIEW
This workbook presents a new kind of methods analysis framework applied to 50 innovation process models spanning a period of 80+ years. Embedded in the framework is a new form of innovation process literacy, designed to enhance understanding of historical and current process models, as well as inform future process design.

PROJECT PURPOSE
This study has been created and shared for educational purposes.

This book is designed to fill what the consortium perceives to be a void in the field of innovation process knowledge.

As an OPEN Innovation Consortium initiative, the goal of this book project is to help move the art, science and design of innovation process modeling forward into the 21st century.

ABOUT OPEN INNOVATION CONSORTIUM
See Open Innovation Consortium in the Initiatives section of this Humantific website.

To receive information on other Humantific projects, events and initiatives feel free to subscribe to Humantific Quarterly.

29
Mar

Making Sense of Alex Osborn

Beyond the “Brainstorming” Debate: What Organizational Leaders Really Need to Know about “Building Better Brainstorms”

Operating a busy innovation-capacity-building consultancy in New York City we do not always have the time to comment on all the innovation-related articles appearing in the various media streams but once in a while we see something that calls out to us.

In Fast Company’s recent article, entitled “Building A Better Brainstorm” by Anya Kamenetz, we noticed creative intention coupled with significant omission and oddly out-of-sync “straw-man” argument construction. In spite of noble efforts by Gerard Puccio and Bob Sutton to inject some deeper smarts into the moderated conversation, it seemed to be yet another dumbed-down new business media piece that succeeded in missing every important milestone around the subject for 60 years. Instead, it focused on regurgitating a few old sparks of constructed controversy. Certainly not very scholarly, what seemed to be missing in “Building A Better Brainstorm” was informative dot-connecting.

What struck me as particularly unfair in the article, constructed as a multi-participant conversation, was the notion of installing a fictitious Alex Osborn (1888-1966) into the mix and then dumbing down that character to the point where he was not enabled to speak up for himself and his idea developments in a meaningful way. Osborn would no doubt be rolling in his grave.

Not sure where Fast Company editors have been hanging out, but certainly in our corner of the innovation industry, it is widely recognized that trying to understand or appreciate the many contributions of Alex Osborn by focusing only on a single early work is a little like trying to understand the Beatles by looking only at Twist & Shout. As an important pioneer of applied creativity, Alex Osborn and his multifaceted work deserve better from collective us. The subject that brainstorming long ago transformed itself into also deserves better.

What purpose would it serve to pretend that what brainstorming was in 1953 is the sum total of the subject today? How is that an informed perspective? How is that fast learning?…fast adaptation?…fast synthesizing for readers?

Any post-graduate student of innovation worth his or her salt today would know that brainstorming was a rudimentary caterpillar that long ago transformed itself into a multidimensional innovation butterfly. If you don’t already know when, where, why and how that occurred, you are not likely to land a leadership job in any leading innovation practice today.

It does seem likely that our Humantific readers differ from those of Fast Company. It is for the former, more so than the latter, that we share this commentary here:

Ten Dots Not Connected in the Fast Company article:

1. It is widely recognized that brainstorming has not been considered a stand-alone creative methodology or technique since the late 1950s. No leading innovation consultancy that we know of uses any version of brainstorming as a standalone method.

2. The American workplace context in which brainstorming was created by Alex Osborn (in the late 1940s, early 50s) was one where generating raw ideas was thought to be the most valuable new creative currency. Coming from an advertising agency background, Osborn saw a need in that era for streams of raw ideas. His early work attempted to graft that notion onto every aspect of everyday work life. Of course, that relatively simple 1950s workplace context long ago radically changed, as did the notion that raw idea streams rule supreme in value. Between 1953 and 1959, Osborn himself made numerous revisions to his Applied Imagination book to reflect his own process-oriented, evolving and adapting realizations. Evolving and adapting would be key words there. Alex Osborn was not a stuck-in-time stationery object. As the context in which he was operating changed and grew more complex, Osborn, working with his primary collaborator Dr. Sid Parnes, recognized that ideas are only as good as the framing that precedes them. By 1959 the “ideas are king” orientation had been superseded by the broader realizations that framing and orchestration were already evolving into the heavier lifts. Don’t miss that moment and what it means. For more than 50 years the generation of raw solution ideas (brainstorming), in its many variations, has been widely considered the relatively easy lift in the innovation cycle.

3. It would be no surprise to most of us that any study of any creativity technique or technology that focuses on humans with no training, no skill, will likely result in a clumsy, negative picture. Imagine trying to understand bicycle riding or piano playing by conducting a study of folks trying to ride a bike or play piano for the first time with no training. Would the clumsy results mean that there are no master bike riders and no master piano players? This has been the logic in use around much of the “research” focused in the direction of brainstorming. In addition, much of it has been conducted by academics, holding levels of process skill that would, in the context of practice today, be considered elementary. To add even more fuzz to the mix, many young, ambitious “journalists/bloggers” seeking to generate heat in the on-line attention wars of today can be seen citing the “research” that never made any sense in the first place. This cascade of silly-billy dysfunction has, for years, muddied the waters on this subject. Perhaps the most important truth in all of that fuzzy mess is to simply appreciate that, by 1959, Osborn himself had already moved beyond brainstorming as he recognized there were bigger applied creativity fish to fry. Moving forward, Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes saw broader applications for the principle ingredients or DNA inside brainstorming. They also recognized a need for a more robust framework for their expanding list of ingredients to operate within.

4. With the help of Dr. JP Guilford, Osborn and Parnes had, by the late 1950s, already significantly reformulated brainstorming into broader recognition of divergence and convergence. Working on the creation of their first (and later to become highly influential) creative problem solving process, Osborn and Parnes realized that divergence and convergence occurs not once, but rather throughout the multi-phase innovation cycle. At that time such articulation was a milestone that significantly advanced the early thinking about brainstorming solution ideas into a different league of consideration. With this integration, brainstorming morphed into a three step dance (divergence, convergence, orchestration) that occurs repeatedly from end to end in the innovation process. It was no longer a one-off event but rather a repeating, adjustable flow-a basic innovation language construction. Still today many do not understand the significance of this milestone in process innovation, as is evidenced by this Fast Company article appearing 60 years later.

5. By 1959-1960, Osborn and Parnes had already recognized that building innovation capacity in the context of organizations involves the integration of divergent thinking and convergent thinking. If you stay frozen in the old brainstorming “ideas are king” mode, you never get to those realizations. At Humantific we consider Osborn and Parnes to be the largely unrecognized founding fathers of the modern age integrative thinking movement. Anyone studying their work would see that they intended thinking integration to be a deliberate orchestration or modulation of divergent and convergent thinking, imaginative and analytical thinking, not a decision-making technique. The truth is, any graduate student of applied creativity can tell you that from the outset in the 1940s, the essential purpose of the applied creativity movement has been thinking integration. Thanks in large part to Osborn and Parnes, that integrative and orchestrative thinking train was already on the tracks, documented and rolling forward decades ago. Many subsequently built on those foundations.

6. With the integration of divergence and convergence into a visible Osborn/Parnes innovation cycle framework, Osborn, Parnes and Guilford effectively introduced the notion of learnable creative behaviors. Interconnected was a belief deeply held by these three pioneers: that everyone has the capacity to be creative. These notions, too, were significant process innovation contributions at that time. By 1959 Osborn and Parnes, working in collaboration with many associates, had already developed a behavior-based, experiential learning program, complete with workbooks that rival in detail, many innovation programs seen today. What is important to appreciate, in terms of timeline sequence, is that what Osborn and Parnes were already teaching by 1958-59 was not brainstorming, but rather an entire mash-up of thinking dynamic skills, both divergent and convergent. They were teaching thinking dynamic orchestration. They were teaching end–to-end creative problem finding and solving. They were teaching the underlying mechanics of continuous adaptability. Among the gems that can be seen in the early workbooks is the now popular invitation stem, How Might We? which, of course, had nothing to do with brainstorming and everything to do with challenge framing. These guys were lightyears ahead of their time, and many others subsequently benefitted from how they shared their many innovations. When Alex Osborn died in 1966, Parnes published, in the following year, Creative Behavior Guidebook, which encapsulated the 15 + years of learning by Osborn, Parnes and their many associates. Always the generous open innovation advocate, Sid Parnes included in Guidebook all the crown jewels of behavioral applied creativity that existed at that time. In that same year Parnes also launched Journal of Creative Behavior, officially grounding the behavioral school of applied creativity. How important was all of that? Behaviors, orchestration and integration all remain not only extremely important but are at the center of most leading innovation consultancies today. Much of that behavior oriented work stands on the shoulders of Alex Osborn, Sid Parnes and JP Guilford.

7. As early applied creativity pioneers, Osborn and Parnes recognized in the 1950s that the default thinking orientation of western culture including the business schools was convergent thinking. Both men were deeply concerned about the potential for convergent thinking to overpower and dominate western culture organizations at the expense of divergent thinking. Anyone can see in the historical literature that Osborn and Parnes were strong, consistent advocates of what they considered to be much needed change and innovation in American business schools. To keep it simple, what they had in mind was more deliberate teaching of divergent and convergent thinking. Underneath, and often underappreciated, was/is the heavier lift of advocacy for equal valuing of both in organizations and in society. More than a process innovation milestone, this thinking dynamics advocacy integrated into creative problem solving was among the most significant, most enduring contributions to the field of creative intelligence by Osborn and Parnes. Regardless of how innovation process models have changed, it is this advocacy for think-balance awareness that continues to have enormous implications for organizations working on innovation capacity-building today.

8. In the early 1950s, the Osborn/Parnes perspective on the relationship between thinking dynamics and innovation was embraced by adventuresome business leaders in the real world and largely ignored by many American business school leaders entangled in academic legacy systems. One result was that the applied creativity skill-building business was born, in large measure, outside the business schools. Some might say it remains largely outside still today. It took more than 50 years for most business school leaders to awaken to the realization that talking creativity and innovation while teaching the privileging of convergence was not a route to innovation leadership. Although in the last few years this orientation has finally begun to change, still today the default thinking mode taught as the highest form of value in most business schools remains convergent thinking, decision-making. That legacy continues. Inside the innovation enabling industry, this continuing phenomenon is well known to have enormous consequences in organizational contexts. Among the top ten most often seen organizational culture challenges is convergent-thinking-dominated cultures struggling to keep up in a continuously reinventing marketplace. Common symptoms of such corporate cultures include having few ideas in the pipeline and little active generative dialogue. These deeply ingrained repeating business culture dynamics explain in part, the reasons for the enduring relevance and interest in the thinking orchestration and integrative thinking work of Osborn and Parnes. That interest extends far beyond brainstorming.

9. Today it is no big secret that divergent thinking techniques beyond the bare-bones of brainstorming 101 have been plentiful for years. Many convergent thinking techniques also exist. Most are hybrids containing some mixture of alone work and group work, writing and visualizing. Most leading innovation consultancies help organizational leaders master combinations that work best in their particular organization, depending on many variables. Most divergent and convergent thinking techniques require skill-building. Some require considerable skill-building to master deeply. Today leading innovation skill-building programs are focused on enhancing capacity-not for brainstorming 101, but rather for better balance and recognition that both styles of thinking, divergent and convergent, are of equal importance and value. The challenges embedded there are far greater than the mechanics of brainstorming. The implications of that think-balance embrace are huge for organizational leaders. Diversity (of thinking) in the workplace streams directly out of that think-balance embrace. Inclusive innovation, inclusive organizational cultures stream from that think-balance embrace. Lets connect the dots sitting right there on the table. To put it in Fast Company terms “The Art [and Science, and Design] of Creative Dialogue” springs from that embrace! It is a lack of that thinking diversity embrace that is at the center of most innovation challenges facing organizations today. It takes courage on the part of leadership to commit to that think-balance embrace. The brainstorming debates, driven largely by media are a side-show distraction in comparison to the challenges involved in integrating think-balance considerations into organizational value systems and into everyday behaviors.

10. Perhaps the most relevant dots unfortunately and ironically not connected on behalf of Alex Osborn in the “Building Better Brainstorms” article have to do with adaptive capacity…more recently being creatively redepicted by Fast Company itself as “Generation Flux”. The dots were sitting right there on the table but they remained unconnected. Apart from a fundamental misreading of brainstorming’s relevance there seems to be a complete absence of understanding regarding the underlying intentions of Osborn’s life’s work. Above and beyond the many milestones and mountains of details, what was it all about Alfi? Once we appreciate that the various streams of Osborn and Parne’s work can be viewed from numerous perspectives, it is not difficult to see that underneath was/is a fundamental acknowledgment on their part of continuous change and an advocacy for continuous adaptability. “Adaptation”, “adapt”, “adapting” are terms used by Osborn more than twenty times in his 1953 version of Applied Creativity. Here is Sid Parnes in 1967: “Obviously there is an urgency for developing in people the ability to live with constant change in a dynamic society.”  Osborn and Parnes saw creative intelligence, creative process mastery, not brainstorming, as the way for humans to realize sustainable adaptability, agility, flexibility, resilience, fluency, fluxability, adaptive capacity or what ever you choose you call that. Osborn and Parnes were among the original enablers of complexity navigation. Their entire body of work is about equipping leaders with adaptability tools. That was what it was all about for Osborn and Parnes then and that is what it is still about for many organizational leaders today. While that need remains, what is different today is that the tools continue to change and evolve. For inclusive culture building, for adaptive capacity building many more strategies and tools now exist.

Conclusion:

What Organizational Leaders Really Need to Know about Building, not Better Brainstorms, but Better Cultures can be summed up in five words: Embrace Diversity of Thinking Now!

Forget the artificially constructed brainstorm wars. The innovation enabling community has long ago moved on. So should you. There is no brainstorming advocacy group out there. What you will find is advocacy for inclusive innovation, for inclusive culture building, for diversity of thinking, for think-balance awareness, for rethinking corporate value systems and reward systems to include the contributions by divergent and convergent thinkers. Tackling these complex tasks will keep zillions of organizational leaders around the world busy for decades to come.

As part of that advocacy for more inclusive think-balance, we would not want to see the brainstorm wars get misinterpreted or misread as advocacy for killing divergent thinking, or advocacy for the continuing dominance of convergent thinking in our organizations and societies. Beware of  Trojan horses that serve to undermine diversity and inclusive innovation. Let’s not let the brainstorm wars be that kind of innovation busting vehicle. Let’s be smarter. Going that route is a recipe for maintaining the status quo, or worse, sending organizations backwards, not for rethinking the future. Whether everyone is oriented in that direction or not, reinvention requires divergence-so we certainly advocate not killing that part of our collective selves anytime soon.

Today what savvy organizational leaders are working on is Building Better Teams, Building Better Cultures, Building Better Organizations. Maximizing brainpower, inventing and adapting will always be part of those equations.

Whether you chose to embrace it, build on it or reject it, to learn from the multifaceted work of Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes, let’s understand it first in all of its amazing courage and timely imperfections!

Thanks so much to Alex and Sid for getting the think-balance revolution underway. You guys did an amazing job!

Much work remains. Let’s get to it!

End.

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Related by GK VanPatter

Making Sense of Jonah Lehrer’s “New GroupThink”

Origins of How Might We

Lost Stories in Applied Creativity History