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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2017 Brian Remer
Updated May 2017
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Bad Ideas; Better Decisions
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
I'm surprised and delighted that at age 14, my daughter still asks me to help pick out her clothes. Naturally, I choose something conservative: a long sleeve top and loose fitting jeans. Her choice has flair: a top with skinny shoulder straps and a short, swishy skirt.
Hey, why did she bother asking anyway? What about my inspired brainchild? Was it merely a measure of what not to do in the teenage world?
In the end, she looks great. Does it matter that my suggestion was rejected? Even the ideas that aren't used contribute to success.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
A Father's Choice: Bad Ideas; Better Decisions
Ever since Alex Osborn described a process for groups to generate creative ideas in his 1953 book Applied Imagination, brainstorming has infiltrated schools, businesses, and the imagination of the general public. Most people know the basic rules: a.) Invent a large number of ideas; b.) Withhold judgment; c.) Include wild ideas; and d.) Combine and build upon other ideas.
Osborn's contention was that more ideas of higher quality could be produced through group brainstorming than by an individual alone. But subsequent research, some of which is described in Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine, challenges Osborn's technique. We now know that the best ideas are generated when individuals write their ideas in silence then share them with others for review and recombination later.
Insisting that people work individually is a way to insure that participants do less self-censoring and have fewer interruptions to the flow of their own thinking. Additionally, it gives introverts a chance to share their thoughts which might otherwise be crowded by the enthusiasm of extroverts.
Everyone agrees that generating a large quantity of ideas is central to finding the key concept that unlocks a stuck problem. This is why diverse teams are important. Their ideas are likely to be more unique. As much fun as it is to work with people who are similar to us, perhaps it makes sense to include a few folks who are really different, who care about different issues, who have an uncommon expertise. Would you go so far as to invite someone you don't like to join your team?
Of course there is considerable risk in this suggestion. One has only to look at the deliberations of any legislative body to see that ideas have currency. They can be used to buy favor, expose or conceal intentions, persuade, influence, or blackmail. In many organizations, the originator of a successful idea can receive praise or a promotion. If your idea is used, your "status account" registers an immediate credit; your "ego stock price" jumps up a few points.
The 99-Word Story suggests that perhaps we don't have to play the idea game this way. Maybe we don't have to be competitive when searching for solutions or generating new ideas. After all, would your thought be as brilliant if it wasn't sitting next to my dumb notion? Perhaps we would both be better off with a little less emotional investment. We need all the ideas to choose the best one.
In the best of all possible worlds, our ideas get better when we encourage other people play with them. When that happens, it is certain that those ideas will change. The end result may be nothing like we envisioned initially.
Ultimately, it shouldn't matter where the winning idea came from or whose head it came out of. What matters is the result. Does it work? Will it help the most people? Is it aligned with our mission and values?
If these questions guide our brainstorming, then every idea is critical in the creation of a winner.
For More Information:
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-547-38607-2.
Reviewed in The Firefly News Flash, May 2012.
The Firefly News Flash, May 2012, contains a refinement of brainstorming that combines individualized thinking and skillful discussion as outlined by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. http://www.thefirefly.org/Firefly/html/News%20Flash/2012/May%202012.htm#activities
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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