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Brainstorming – Light & Shades

The basic objective of Brainstorming is “generatingnew ideas, stimulating creativity, “freeingthe mind from the constraints of schematism, logic and “common sense” – it’s used to “unlock” a critical situation, to find innovative solutions. Brainstorming, since it was “invented” and defined, in the 50’s, by the advertising pioneer Alex F. Osborn, has often been used inappropriately. One of the most recent and impassioned criticism of the “Myth of the Brainstorm” can be read in J. Lehrer.

The fundamental Brainstorming Laws established by Osborn were quite simple:

  • Strive for Quantity of ideas
  • Encourage the “unusual” – wild and exaggerated ideas
  • No criticism allowed – avoid any judgment 
  • Build on each others ideas

The problem lies in the assumption on which it is based, namely that, if brought together in a group, people produce more ideas than if left alone – which has been radically challenged by several extensive and very detailed studies (for an overview see R. I. Sutton & A. Hargadon).

For example, M. Diehl & W. Stroebe have thoroughly investigated the productivity of the ideational process, measured by the number of ideas generated by the individuals or group, clearly showing that individuals are able to generate many more ideas, and of better quality, than the group.

Teamwork | Il Blog di Marco Ossani

Different group dynamics that may lead to this loss of productivity are:

  • the phenomenon of “groupthink” – especially when dealing with homogeneous groups (same department, training, background…) you can observe people feeling a “pressure” to “conform” to the “shared” points of view of the group – the sense of belonging and the desire of “communion” are taking over…
  • the tendency to be aligned with the opinion of the “boss“, if there is someone  in the group who has any kind of authority or exercises a power – this happens even in absence of any form of pressure/coercion or authoritarian attitude
  • the fear of the others’ judgment (“evaluation apprehension“) can easily inhibit the free generation and expression of ideas, especially the wildest ones – we feel this fear merely for being watched – this is obviously amplified by the presence of figures with power/authority
  • when we are working in a group, it often happens that we put less effort into achieving the goals, than when we work by ourselves – this phenomenon (known as “social loafing“) has its roots in an attempt to avoid pulling the weight of another team member…
  • while waiting for our turn to “express” our idea, we can experience a “production blocking” because we get distracted (by listening to others) or we forget our thoughts.

Specific strategies can be implemented as shown, for example, by Chris Griffiths Tom Kelley, to avoid or minimise these limitations; so I believe it’s worthy reconsidering and redesigning a modern Brainstorming, and exploit at best its creative power. In an upcoming article we’ll see how to do this, and how Mind Maps can be helpful…

Mind Mapping for MBA Teaching

Mind Maps are broadly used with success at all levels of the educational process – in this article I will discuss some experiences related to teaching in the Business and Management environment.

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Mind Maps for Learning

In Western civilisation we experience a dominance of  linear, logical and sequential  thinking, that can be perhaps tracked down to the success of Newton’s mechanics, based on a kind of “universal” linearity (the uniform rectilinear motion in absence of external forces…).

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How to make a “To Do List” that works

A “To Do List” is used to remind and monitor the execution of important activities, “moving stuff” from a chaotic mental space to an organized and structured one, with the ultimate goal of “Getting Things Done”.

Quite often, despite good intentions, “To Do Lists” are a total miss, they fail at improving productivity while causing “paralysis” and frustration… why?

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To Do (List) or not To Do (List), that is the question…

“To Do Lists” are a “topos” of any “Time Management” course – they’re considered a key tool to enhance productivity.

More than productivity, I prefer to think of optimising mental resources, to facilitate “emptying” and opening of the mind (“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything” – Shunryu Suzuki), to receive and process more new thoughts.

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Computer Mind Mapping

The use of a dedicated software allows overcoming some of the typical “obstacles” to the adoption of Mind Mapping. The practical use of Mind Mapping in Business requires some “practicability” characteristics:

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Mind Maps: the Obstacles… (and how to overcome them)

Our world is still heavily influenced by the “industrial civilisation” (the “machine”, the assembly line, productivity…). Our education is grounded on a logical, sequential, linear notation system (think of a proficiency test, the note taking and note making you’re used to you).

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Mind Mapping: the Masters’ Tips

Creation of a Mind Map is a deeply involving activity for the mind, a natural and effective way to direct and record creative thinking.

To many extents, creating a Mind Map is an art, and as an art it can be learnt, knowing the rules and the “tricks of the trade”, watching the Masters and copying their work, and practicing, practicing, practicing…

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The laws of Mind Mapping

We have seen how to draw and develop a Mind Map, following the radiant nature of our thought, based on association and connections: organization of ideas and concepts in a Mind Map is as natural and fluid as we faithfully follow our thinking, wherever it leads us.

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How to Draw a Mind Map

If you are at your first experience with Mind Mapping, you are about to make a real, life changing discovery… it’s very easy: the necessary tools, in addition to your mind, are just a sheet of white, plain paper (neither ruled nor squared, at least A4 size) and some colored pens.

Choose a word (a suggestion? “Home”): write it clearly and “draw it” (“your” idea of home, it doesn’t matter if you are not Leonardo…), with colors, at the center of the sheet (landscape oriented) – this will be your “central idea”.

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