The basic objective of Brainstorming is “generating” new ideas, stimulating creativity, “freeing” the 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:
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.
Different group dynamics that may lead to this loss of productivity are:
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 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.
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…).
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?
“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.
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:
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).
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…
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.
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”.