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Mindful : June 2013
Storm Warning So you’re at work, and you’ve got a problem to solve that requires a fresh, new idea. Everyone in the office gathers round. Someone grabs the flip-char t paper and an array of markers. It’s time to brainstorm. Not so fast, says Bill Dug- gan, Columbia business pro- fessor and author of Creative Strategy. “Brainstorming works for 90% of ordinary problems. It’s ver y efficient. But it’s not creative,” says Duggan. In fact, brainstorming sessions can often be more disruptive than creative. Some good ideas may emerge but rarely great ones, and time that could be spent spurring true innovation is lost to groupthink. “ When you have a formal brainstorming meeting, you’ll find toys or games or bright col- ors or some exercise designed to stimulate the right side of your brain,” says Duggan. The trouble is that the old left brain/ right brain split—that is, left is logical and rational, right is cre- ative and intuitive—is outdated. Duggan says real creativ- ity requires the thinking that happens in the brain when it’s not being stimulated (by team idea-generating exercises, for instance). His method assumes that the brain processes information as a whole—with the analytical and intuitive sides working together. When information combines and recombines in unique ways, flashes of insight occur: “Oh, that connects to that connects to that—got it!” Since this whole-brain recombining of ideas requires mental space, it’s most likely to occur when you’re kicked back, Duggan says, “in the shower or after meditation or during meditation when your mind is relaxed, not stimulated. The most creative brain is the mindful brain.” And it’s a process that can’t be rushed. Presence of mind iswhatgivesusalegupinthe creativity depar tment, and it takes time to mull over each par t or piece you’re consid- ering. “The more you keep searching,” says Duggan, “ the more you keep trying to put things together: This could go with this could go with this. Yo u can’t schedule that.” So how could this be tailored for a team effor t? Duggan rec- ommends examining the prob- lem and breaking it into par ts. Then the team can use unhur- ried creative time to search for precedents and combinations based on the different par ts of the puzzle. During this time, team members will scan their experience and put it together in new ways; and at the right time, that new idea you need will pop into somebody’s mind. All it takes is a little quiet. ● June 2013 mindful 13 June 2013 mindful 13 Illustration by Gavin Potenza