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Team Creativity At Work I and II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best
Edward Glassman, PhD : Favorite Idea Generating Brainwriting Procedures

Some Favorite Idea Generating Brainwriting Procedures

By Edward Glassman, PhD

People send me their favorite procedures that enhance their creativity. Here are some that I like, including one of mine.

• Dream Interruption Brainwriting.

Robert Muylaert, a manager in the Information Services Division of Federal-Mogul Corporation, sent me this. He writes: At bed time, put a pencil and a pad of paper next to your bed. Write a description of the problem, no more than 5 sentences. Review the outline briefly. Tell yourself that you will identify solutions to your problem, that you know you have the solution somewhere in your mind, and that you will wake yourself up when everything fits together. Chances are you will wake up with many fertile, unexpected thoughts. Jot them down or they will be lost.

As Bob says: "This approach works well when I want something rich. I could easily use a quick fix, but by doing it this way, I get a lot of depth, some unconventional ideas, and many trigger-ideas. I have to really want to do it. It does not work if I just want to do homework. I have to enter into this procedure with anticipation and wonderment of impending greatness that will somehow be realized before morning."

• Clustering Brainwriting.

Corey Ericson, an R&D manager in DuPont, taught me this advanced creativity technique. He writes: Write a nucleus-word representing your problem in the center of a piece of paper or a flip chart. Draw a circle around it. Write rapidly whatever comes to mind in a cluster of words or short phrases around the core word. Draw a circle around each word or phrase as you write it, and link it to the previous word or phrase. This forms a series of words or short phrases inside linked circles to form a flow chart of ideas.

Do not think about what you are writing. Do free intuitive writing. Be spontaneous, and do not evaluate. You want randomness in the early stages. Don't seek connectedness in what you write. Go off on wild tangents. Look for new paradigms. Seek the bizarre.

If one of the circled thoughts seems interesting, cluster words or phrases in linked circles around it for as long as you are spontaneous. Write circled linked words or phrases as long as ideas flow freely. When you run out, let it sit for a time. Show the bubble clusters to someone else to trigger new ideas. After a rest, add new ideas.

Now study the cluster of words and phrases in the linked circles you have created. Connect word clusters to give new, creative, synergistic approaches to the problem on which you are working. List ideas you might want to try.

As Corey Ericson says," Set a quota for a minimum number of ideas. Settling for less than 5 new ideas is to accept the obvious, the quick fix."

• Brainwriting Circles.

I adapted clustering for my own use, and for individuals who work alone or in teams.

Write a word or phrase that captures the problem in a small circle in the center of a paper on a writing pad or on a large flip chart paper on an easel. Start a process of free association by writing words close to the circle that remind you of the concept within the circle. Don't evaluate.

When there is no room left next to the circle, move outward a bit and start writing a new circular layer of words. Continue until the page is filled with concentric circular layers of words triggered by free association with the original word or phrase, or with other words and phrases written on the paper.

Be creative throughout. Do not evaluate. Go off on tangents. You do not have to make sense. When the paper is full, start making creative connections, drawing lines between words or phrases that suggest new paradigms, or define new thought patterns and ideas that seem useful in themselves or as triggers to new ideas.

Be patient. Allow this process to work. It sometimes seems fragile to me, about to shatter into a useless jumble, unless I nurture it by not forcing it to make sense too soon. Stay with it. This procedure can help your creativity in marvelous ways.

Please send me your favorite procedure at my website (below), and thank you Bob and Corey. •

© 2010 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity. More »