That’s one lesson that I’ve learned in various forms, and which I see in action in truly successful brainstorming sessions.
There’s something about human nature, and the need to “fix” something that’s obviously wrong, that seems to inspire more action than just some empty space that is in need of filling.
For instance, I confess to, once upon a time, wasting a great deal of time on a popular online MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). Mostly this was just a time-suck, but there was at least one thing I learned about social interactions.
Let’s say there was a quest where I needed to find an object in the middle of some virtual badlands, and hundreds upon hundreds of people have already gone through this same “quest” before me. After spending a couple of hours wandering, it might occur to me to ask for help on one of the forums. It might also happen that I am completely ignored.
However, I learned a trick. It just takes two people. One person poses the question. The second person (who doesn’t necessarily know the answer either, or else this whole exercise would be moot) needs only to reply with a completely made-up answer. This, I found, was guaranteed to prompt a wide range of responses correcting the offending Person #2, and at least a few of those responses might even be useful or correct.
Maybe it’s not exactly the same social reflex at work here, but I’ve found that for the sake of brainstorming, sometimes it’s best to just toss something out there, no matter how malformed and incomplete it is, as a conversation starter.
If everyone has the freedom to be wrong (and not get embarrassed or fear “losing face” over it) it can be quite liberating. Just put your idea out there, and if anyone has any ideas on how to make a better idea that solves for that wrongness, then throw that idea into the ring as well. In the resulting conversation, we can generate a plethora of ideas, and maybe, just maybe, that will lead to the solution.
This is the principle behind Forness® Thinking—first, by creating an environment that bans negative responses to ideas (including negative responses that start with, "Yes, but...") so that everyone can freely share solutions; second, by looking at what parts of the idea help solve the problem; and third, by then identifying how to improve on the idea and work toward a solution. With this method, participants are encouraged and engaged, and ideas stretch further. Ideas not only survive, they have a chance to grow—and truly transformative change can make even the impossible possible.
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