Hands down, one of the most important steps in any collaborative creative process is the brainstorming session. Most of us know itâ€™s a crucial time â€“ a time when members can freely generate ideas and in the process, come up with new, exciting concepts.
Unfortunately â€“ as many agencies and marketing departments have discovered the hard way â€“ sessions that lack structure typically produce a large amount of â€˜fizzâ€™. Why? Because lack of structure results in lack of substance. All of a sudden, your big ideas session is all talk and no action.
So how can you make brainstorming sessions more effective? Well, yesterday I read an article that stopped me dead in my tracks. I investigated the topic further and realised that better brainstorming might be as simple as putting on coloured hats (and they can even be imaginary hats).
In 1985, Edward de Bono created and wrote Six Thinking Hats, in which he detailed a structural framework for brainstorm-style discussions. De Bonoâ€™s technique is now a widely used tool for promoting â€˜parallel thinkingâ€™, individually or in a group.
The Six Thinking Hats method works by inviting each member of a brainstorming group to â€˜wearâ€™, metaphorically, a hat of a particular colour.
Each of six hats represents a particular mode of thought and â€˜wearingâ€™ a specific hat provides each participant with a creative direction (rather than a label) during the brainstorming session.
By swapping hats, says de Bono, members can contribute from fresh perspectives less swayed by bias, as wearing someone elseâ€™s hat â€˜separates ego from performanceâ€™, sidestepping typical defense mechanisms.
This is a great way to turn ideas into action and helps add structure and substance to any brainstorming session.
So what hat will you wear?
â€¢ The wearer of the white hat looks at the problem or situation in terms of facts, figures, the information known or needed, and gaps in the system.
â€¢ The red hat requires its wearer to speak quickly, expressing intuition, feeling and emotion. It goes with gut instinct.
â€¢ The wearer of the black hat plays â€˜Devilâ€™s advocateâ€™, looking at the negatives and pinpointing what might go wrong; this hat wearer is wary.
â€¢ Wearing the yellow hat, you focus on the positive, exploring why an idea works and what its benefits might be.
â€¢ The green hat, worn backwards, gives the wearer leeway to think â€˜outside the boxâ€™, offering perspectives on the problem that are unique and provocative.
â€¢ The wearer of the blue hat controls the process and flow of the discussion, ensuring all the ideas put forward are discussed in a logical sequence, then focuses on a plan of attack/next steps.
Since it was introduced, de Bonoâ€™s method has been employed by some of the worldâ€™s biggest brands, including IBM, Federal Express, British Airways and Pepsico. Thereâ€™s even an app for it.
So go on, put your (insert appropriate colour here) cap on and kick start the lateral thinking. Your next brainstorming session might produce some extraordinary results!
Have you tried this with your team? I would love to hear about it.