Brainstorming sessions can easily devolve into a contest of strong egos or a parade of old, tired ideas and their accompanying resentments. Worse, meetings around ideation or innovation sour when there is lack of good manners.
Like roommates coming to terms on who cleans what and when, applying a few, simple house rules on the front end preserves relationships and creates a harmony in the environment.
Discipline is the handmaiden to creativity. You have to give the creative process a framework, basic parameters, to harness its value. Setting the house rules gives you the power to make something outside of pre-programmed egos in the room, something that may make you a market leader.
So, how do you manage this oh-so-human-tendency to dominate with the timeless cornerstone of civilization, good manners?
These manners often have to be imposed externally as social reinforcements to do the right thing instead of acting heedlessly on our own blinding passions in a creative frenzy.
The manners become house rules from generating a profusion of ideas. At this stage, research proves true again and again, the more ideas created the more valuable. So, the idea isn’t to analyze each embryonic concept at this stage, but to create a trusting environment that allows for maximum idea creation.
Here are several examples of manners that can be used to create an effective innovation environment.
First, use good manners. This means doing what your mother should have told you. Don’t interrupt. Have only one conversation going at any time. Listen respectfully. Don’t judge. Don’t bring your unruly pets (old ideas and rigid notions) to the party. Create a sense of trust.
Second, silence the inner editor. This is not the time to analyze or criticize, as natural as that impulse may be. Creativity is a process. Killing an idea before it has time to take its first breath and develop is akin to being a schoolyard bully. Leave your ego at the door. Be vulnerable and have fun.
Third, trust the process. There will be several steps in the process that will merit further exploration of a concept, so apply patience. More will be revealed, if you allow the generative creativity. A moderator will guide this discovery through a series of formal exercises designed for this process.
We could get more elaborate and craft a Ten Commandments of Innovation, but why? This move may inhibit the joy and outcome of the process. Stay simple.
Keep in mind that this a session where creativity and good manners will work hand-in-glove to generate a wealth of fresh thinking.
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Michael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth