Archive for May, 2012

Brain drizzling? Try linking instead.

Early on in my career as a chemical engineer working in R&D process development I came to the realization that many good ideas get shot down prematurely.  Granted, many of these thoughts come out half baked, but in the proper environment they can lead to some very nourishing developments. 

I always thought Osborn’s methods for brainstorming counteracted the quenching of creativity.  However, although his approach certainly does generate a quantity of ideas, the end results never proved nearly as astounding as one might expect.

Earlier this year The New Yorker magazine debunked as Groupthink many of Osborn’s cherished tenets, such as allowing no criticism.  The current thinking is that you gather a diverse group of bright people and then just let things fly with no holds barred.  The fear of public humiliation forces the participants to think a bit before speaking. If they do get strong criticism, these creative people must regroup their thoughts and try again. The best idea(s) tend to win out. 

Here is one minor variation on the “no rules” creativity session that I suggest: Ask that everyone come in with one idea to throw into the pot.  Then let the fun begin!

Given Osborn’s rules are passé, where should you turn to next for catalyzing creativity?  I recommend you consider Idea-Links.  I have had the pleasure of picking the brain of the author, Jim Link—a very energizing fellow.  Believe me, he really knows how to get people to think outside of the box.

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

– Albert Einstein

If you have other ideas on fostering creativity (or wish to criticize those already proposed), toss them into the ring.  Do not be shy (nor sensitive).

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Ivory towers of academia (& shiny ones in Vancouver)

Today’s Vancouver Sun suggests that a competitive university culture discourages sharing of knowledge, which then leads to the publication of many flawed and fraudulent studies.  This is a rehash of issues I cited recently with the warning Beware of obvious answers and positive results.  It would be great, albeit a bit boring, if journals published negative results from well-designed experiments with adequate power to see beneficial results.  As my colleague Wayne Adams says

“Most of what you learn from an experiment is what NOT to do.”

PS. I took this picture Granville Island looking across to downtown Vancouver.

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