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A Great Post from “Innovation Excellence”

June 30, 2012

Through one of the wonderful blogs I follow (Beverly Shares), I came to this concise and useful analysis of the role of “left-brained” types in creative sessions and innovation, and how to bring out their creative sides:

10 Ways to Help Left-Brainers Tap Into Creativity

If your job requires you to lead meetings, brainstorming sessions, or problem solving gatherings of any kind, chances are good that most of the people you come in contact with are left-brain dominant: analytical, logical, linear folks with a passion for results and a huge fear that the meeting you are about to lead will end with a rousing chorus of kumbaya.

Not exactly the kind of mindset conducive to breakthrough thinking.

Do not lose heart, oh facilitators of the creative process. Even if you find yourself in a room full of 10,000 left brainers, there are tons of ways to work with this mindset in service to bringing out the very best of the group’s collective genius:

I like the idea that having to manage “analytical, logical, linear folks” through the creative process will actually make that process work better because it means having to clarify the process, explicitly identify assumptions, and, perhaps most important, identify evaluative criteria for what “counts” as a good or useful idea in what can be a highly open-ended process:
The reason why ideas are usually considered a dime a dozen is because most people are unclear about their process for identifying the priceless ones. That’s why a lot of brainstorming sessions are frustrating. Tons of possibilities are generated, but there is no clear path for winnowing and choosing.
Good ideas are like good writing, in the sense that the best writing comes from throwing a lot of words on the page, writing without editing–and then spending hours or days or weeks poring over every word, cutting until it’s strong and supple.  The author of this innovation blog quotes Linus Pauling as saying that good ideas come from having lots and simply throwing out the bad ones.  That can be the most important–and the most difficult–role for a teacher or manager, knowing not only how to identify the good ideas, but how to teach students or employees or groups to identify on their own what the best ideas are and how to accept the throwing-out of the others.
Students in particular, and also young employees, feel very attached to their ideas, and are often afraid that they simply won’t have enough ideas to fill the word count, complete the project, or what have you.  So when you suggest tossing a sentence, a paragraph, an idea, they get nervous and defensive.

As the “Innovation Excellence” blogger suggests, there are (at least) two roles in any creative group: coming up with ideas is one, but evaluating and eliminating or selecting ideas is another that’s equally important.  Your best bet is to identify those in the group who are good at coming up with lots of ideas versus those who are good at evaluating and culling.  Then use each group to its best advantage, rather than trying to get everyone to work in the same way.

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