When you want new solutions to a problem, you should realize some researchers believe that traditional brainstorming posits an old-fashioned view of creativity. It divorces inspiration from analysis, which is far from the way the brain operates. According to strategy + bus., 2010, Issue 61 at 24, “There is no left brain; there is no right. There is only learning and recall, in various combinations, throughout the entire brain.”
Creativity flows most effectively from (1) minds full of examples of problems and solutions from the past, (2) presence of mind – a conscious effort to clear your brain of all expectations regarding, (3) flashes of unbidden insight where the pieces, or some of them, come together; and (4) resolution, the will to act on the idea despite obstacles.
The article describes a process developed by General Electric to help problem solvers harness this technique. Under a draft description of the problem to be solved – draft because the framing of the situation may change – a team lists rows of “actions you think you might need to take to succeed in the situation.” In columns you try to identify possible sources of the all-important question for each action: “Has anyone else in the world ever made progress on any piece of this puzzle?”
The intuitive combination of possible actions and possible sources of ideas about those actions, left to ferment cognitively, often leads to flashes of insight. The methodology sounds promising for law departments. Other companies have tried reverse brainstorming where you collect ideas bubbled up during the past week rather than force them during a meeting (See my post of June 1, 2009: reverse brainstorming.).