Tag: brainstorming

Newsletter – Why brainstorming does not work!

Dear Reader,

If you are reading this because a friend or colleague was kind enough to forward it to you, then you might like to sign up for your very own copy by clicking here.

As we are now heading towards the holiday season many readers will be winding down. Hopefully, I can provide a little entertainment and some useful titbits in this rather odd period of the year.


At this time of year retailers are all desperate for our business. Keep an eye open for good examples of customer service, and good ideas generally that you could adopt. I saw some excellent examples of how to treat a customer at a high end candle shop and also a jewellers. At the opposite end of the scale, I noticed some very poor examples at a large chain store. Definitely no Magic & Sparkle there!


Would you like to achieve more with less effort? Yes really. Well a spot of fluffy thinking is what you need. Get in touch to find out how a spot of alternative thinking could help you and your organisation.

How many of you saw the subject of this email and thought ‘What is he on about, of course it works!’. Well for dramatic effect I did leave out ‘a lot of the time’.

Have you had this experience?

How many times has somebody summoned you to a meeting room using the words ‘ let’s go and brainstorm the solution to this problem?’ And how many time has it not worked very well or maybe not at all? And when it did not work did you put it down to the facilitator, or perhaps the problem was too hard, or maybe you just did not give it long enough?

Well, there is a reason for this, you were most likely using the wrong technique! Often we think we know what the problem is when in fact all we know is the situation in which the problem occurs. So, we have to determine the problem or possibly identify a range of potential problems. Next, we must pick THE problem or the most critical.

Picking the right technique

Having done this there might be a range of possible solutions out of which we must pick one to work with right now. Do you see a pattern emerging here? I have briefly outlined four stages which have the format diverge/converge/diverge/converge.

You will not be surprised to learn that one of the ways of classifying creative thinking techniques is as divergent or convergent. Other classifications can be group/solo working, exploring, reframing etc.

Anyway, if you use a technique incorrectly in the wrong phase it is likely not to work very well (or at all).

Let’s return to Brainstorming. This is a divergent technique as it is intended to generate a number of ideas or solutions. It will therefore not work when you are trying to converge i.e. focus on one specific issue.

So when you are summoned to a meeting room to generate solutions to a problem you will generate something but it is likely that you will not have identified what the problem actually is so the solutions will not fit very well.

I have a little black book with around 144 of these techniques, so if you would like to give this sort of thinking a try, please get in touch and I will find something tailored to your needs.

Please do get in touch or provide feedback by replying to this newsletter, or using any of the contact methods listed on the website derekcheshire.com.

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all readers everywhere,

Derek Cheshire

Can I help you to find the difference that makes the difference?

Derek is a Fellow of the RSA, a speaker, facilitator, award-winning radio presenter and Adjunct Professor at VIT University, Chennai. He has been working in the field of Business Creativity and Innovation since 2002.

Guerrilla Creativity – Creativity that works!

That’s guerrilla not gorilla, although I’m sure that apes are very creative in their own way. Have you ever been on a course, say project management, leadership or even assertiveness and then wondered why you had such a hard time dealing with colleagues or perhaps loved ones when you returned? What is your reaction when a colleague returns from a course? At a guess you say to yourself “don’t you try any of that stuff on me, I’m not going to succumb to your tricks or mind games”.

Despite the fact that most of us are responsible adults, we become childish when we think someone may be trying to influence us. The question is how to use our new found skills without anyone noticing. The answer is of course not to tell anyone that we are using our newly acquired skills! When introducing creative thinking techniques the problems are usually made worse by colleagues thinking that they will always be outside of their comfort zone and then battening down the hatches and resisting all your attempts to involve them.

Next time you wish to use reverse brainstorming, do not start your sentence with ‘I think that we will try and use reverse brainstorming on this one’. The words different, change, creativity and uncomfortable immediately flash before your colleagues’ eyes. Why not start your session with a pitch like that below:

“How many of you have encountered negative colleagues in the workplace? Would you like to be able to harness this negativity for the good of the company?”

First of all your colleagues only think that you are trying out a technique or showing them how to use it (which of course you are) and secondly they will jump in because they of course do not wish to be seen to be negative themselves. This type of approach can be used in all sorts of situations. This is guerrilla creativity, sneaking in by the back door, and it works.

Creativity – why the UK Foreign Office has very little

Yesterday a huge story hit the news stands here in the UK. Within the Foreign Office a brainstorming session was held to  do some ‘blue sky thinking’ around things that should form part of the Pope’s forthcoming visit to the UK. As with all good idea generation sessions everything was recorded and the results marked not to be distributed externally. Of course, some of the ideas upset one or two people who took it upon themselves to make the document public. The BBC article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

This whole sorry episode highlights some DOs and DONTs for generating ideas:

  • DO make sure that your objectives are clear at the start, that way you will not be left defending your motives afterwards.
  • DONT use any form of censorship, not even telling people to keep quiet. They won’t. Get people to buy  in to secrecy if this is needed in a commercial environment. If they spill the beans they are breaking the confidence of their peers and colleagues.
  • DO invite appropriate people.
  • DO make sure that brainstorming is not the whole process, some filtering has to take place to weed out the wacky ideas.
  • DO publish the results yourself, others may well try to take things out of context.
  • DONT be naive. In any political (in the true sense, not just government) environment there will be points scoring. Some people will go to extreme efforts to sabotage yours!

… and finally please do persevere. I’m sure that the Junior Official within the Foreign Office who has now ‘been moved to other duties’ did a good job and once the wacky ideas had been thrown away the Pope may very well have had some great events organised to complement the obligatory masses and baby blessings. A great opportunity missed perhaps? In the future people will be afraid to try new things so it could be a case of ‘If you do what you have always done, the you will get what you have always got’.

So please try and be a little different, but be careful!

Why Brainstorming Is BAD

No, BAD is not an acronym. I simply hate brainstorming and try to avoid it wherever possible. This stems from an introduction (many years ago) to the type of brainstorming that we all hate – sitting round a table with a pile of Post-It notes being told by the boss to come up with ideas. I objected because we never got anywhere and a great deal of time was wasted. I firmly believe that Brainstorming is bad.

Some people do, however, use brainstorming and have some success. There are a significant number of people who do not. Why is this?

Simples, as a well known Meerkat might say (apologies if you live outside the UK). Creative problem solving is a series of phases which alternate in using convergent and divergent thinking (focusing on one thing or generating many options). If you wish to generate ideas you need to know the objective. What are you generating ideas for and is it really the right thing to be doing? This is convergent thinking and needs to be done and there are even creative techniques for this part of the process.

Next comes a divergent phase to generate options. This is where brainstorming comes in. All techniques can be categorised according to whether they are convergent/divergent, group/solo etc so it is essential to use the correct type of technique in corresponding phase. So use brainstorming for divergence – it is a divergent technique. And this is where those who tried to get me started went terribly wrong.

We sat round a table using a divergent technique to ‘solve a problem’ without working out exactly what the problem was. The only way this would have worked is by pure luck (and we never got lucky). There are other issues of course regarding environment, group make up etc but if you use the wrong tool for the job it is not going to work no matter how hard you try.

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