It’s not true that “every idea is a good idea.” Of the tens of thousands of ideas that I have seen come out of brainstorming sessions, a majority of them are what most people would consider bad ideas.  But it is HOW you turn the bad ideas into good ideas that count.

There has been a lot of talk recently that the “stay positive” ground rule for traditional brainstorming sessions may not be as effective as confrontation and dissent in coming up with quality innovations.  The example often used is the highly-charged crit sessions at Pixar Studios that have produced many innovative ideas “that emerge from relentless dissent.”

Not so fast

Before you put your creative team in the ring and strap on the gloves, keep in mind that the Pixar creatives are professionals – don’t try this at home!  Their endless hours together in crafting their cinematic wonders create strong relationships and personal bonds that transcend their confrontations.  They understand the creative power of the dissenting process in ways that less experienced people cannot.

Putting your R&D team in a room with your Marketing team and telling them to confront and criticize each other’s ideas could ultimately require the intervention of UN peacekeeping forces.  When people attack our ideas, our immediate response is to attack back, leading to an escalation of ego-defense, rather than an improvement in the ideas.

Constructive Collaboration

As an alternative, have these teams focus together on constructive collaboration.  For ideas that need work and improvement to reach some threshold of practicality (or excellence), everyone on the team is invited to “build” the idea in new and significant ways.

For example, if I am concerned about the cost effectiveness of an idea, I would not criticize the idea for being too expensive or impractical.  Instead, I offer a “build” to the idea (perhaps using a different material) that I believe will make its pricing more attractive.

If you think that my build might not be effective, you don’t have to criticize my idea.  Just offer your own build on it, perhaps eliminating a product feature.  As everyone on the team offers potential solutions for a perceived problem, the idea will become better and better – without confrontation.

Constructive collaboration – where hardhats are not needed.

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