Still there you are in some meeting, ostensibly about cultivating novel solutions to a chronic problem and the standard assumptions are upheld – sometimes even defended – usually by the person who thinks they know better. The person who needs to be right, gets to be right – but often at the expense of novel ideas and potential innovation.
In 1958, Yale University conducted a study to test brainstorming and concluded that brainstorming individually was more effective than brainstorming in a group, but it was widely misinterpreted as “brainstorming didn’t work.” The Yale study created a debate that has percolated for fifty years. Does brainstorming work or not? Does a group generate more and better ideas than the same people would if they were working individually?
The playful gizmos and gadgets we bring along help make the conference room look less sterile and corporate, but the toys are not just for show. If you’re a tactile person, being able to pick up a squeezy rubber ball, or twist the beads of a wooden wand, fumble with a Rubik’s cube or stack tiny colored magnets into small mountains can actually aide the fluidity of your thinking. While your hands are fidgeting, new things can pop into your mind.
There is an alchemy of elements to create a successful workshop. It includes a casual setting that creates an open climate, a thoughtful agenda design, delivery by facilitators who can build a rapport with the participants, and the presence of willing, committed participants.
Whatever the purpose of a training or workshop – for innovation, skill-building, team building, strategy development – a sure-fire sabotage is to invite people to attend who aren’t committed to the meeting outcome, or who have another hidden agenda.
About mid-way through our most intensive programs, when participants eyes are bulging from input and process, we often ask them to take an hour and go off and be alone. We make the suggestion that this hour be used not to catch up on email or to check-in at the home office, but rather to take it as an hour of quiet time, in solitude. An hour without conversation, without internet-checking or web-surfing, without intake, input or stimulus. We suggest to people that they go for a walk or sit someplace quietly and just think. You might call it a thinking-permitted meditation.
Lucky people deliberately choose to make their life diverse and different. Unlucky ones tend to stick to routines. So one way to instantly improve your luck, and your creativity, is to change things up. Do it differently. Eat lunch at a different place. Shop at a new store. Walk home a different route. And while you’re doing it differently, pay attention – not just to the task at hand, but the layers of life around it, the environment, the weather, the light, the sounds, the other things happening on the periphery.