As a one-time practitioner of brainstorming approaches, I found myself recently putting the rather old-fashioned technique to use. I needed a strap-line (marketing slogan) for a new web-page. I report on the results as a case example for entrepreneurs, project leaders and creative designers.
Over the years I have researched and published extensively on so-called creativity techniques such as brainstorming. This work, including an extensive set of references, can be found on my new website. The website plays an important part in the case I am about to describe. Click here for accessing the site.
The need for a strap-line
I had been thinking for several weeks about a strap-line to accompany my new website. This is under preparation to signal a change of career for myself, from an academic who also writes popular books (some more popular than others) to an author who still retains interest in more scholarly ideas about the nature of creativity, leadership, and innovation.
Several weeks passed since the need for a strap-line became evident. No satisfactory idea had come to mind. Looking at a list of To Be Dones, I began work on finding a Strap Line that would satisfy me as a possible ‘candidate’ idea.
I jotting down every idea that came to mind in my (non-electronic) notebook. Fifteen minutes later I had produced a list of some thirty ideas. The unedited list, typed out into a table subsequently, is shown above.
I kept going, knowing that if I stop too quickly would probably miss more promising ideas. I was following the (still unproven) contention that in brainstorming Quantity Breeds Quality and the other injunction to Postpone Judgement (‘Stay loose ‘til rigor counts’).
Fifteen minutes later I had produced a list of some thirty ideas. The process was semi-automatic. Still no satisfactory idea. Then one idea, No 30 resulted in a Hitch Hike (improvement).
No 30: ‘Sudgeon’ was a mis-spelling for Sojourn. I clarified in
No 31: Stay a while
These two ideas took me back to various ideas with the word Book in them, to idea No 32 Books for those who ‘sojourned’ . Or Browsed. I wrote down the idea that arrived with that moment of discovery or insight
No 32: Books for Browsers
I had reached a stopping point. The idea had arrived with a sense of closure (a Eureka moment).
Technically, a case may be made for continuing, as sometimes even better ideas emerge after one which seems exceptional. For better or worse, the brainstorming ends. The note-book page contains a few more scribbles on a different task (unreadable), and comments added out of which a assembled the typed table above.:
Ideas to Actions
The page also concuded with the notes:
Contacted (a professional printer)
Received Posters (proofs)
The Implementation stage had lasted less than an hour.
In the 1970s, my interest was to study how so-called creative problem-solving techniques might assist creativity in business and professional activities. Researchers then were concerned with exploring the mystical processes of ‘incubation’ and ‘insight’.
My own approach, with support from colleagues and student teams at Manchester Business School, was to take part in project assignments attempting to arrive at new ideas for ‘clients’ in their personal and professional lives.
In my recent venture into fiction, Wendy Lockinge, the main character of The Chronicles of Leadership, fills a whiteboard with ideas using the technique, in her search for her missing daughter. As a former detective turned academic, she also chose individual brainstorming initially, over the team approach more widely associated with technique.
Interestingly, in researching this case, I found a reference to brainstorming which I had forgotten about. Writing in the early 1970s I described how Police chief John Watt, in the TV series Softly Softly had assembled his team of detectives:
‘We are now’, he announced, ‘about to have what the bright boys and management consultants call a brainstorming’.
Rickards, T., (1974:59) Problem-Solving through Creative Analysis, Epping: Gower Press.
To study the process in a more rigorous way would require considerable time. It would make an interesting essay or project for a student on a creative studies course. I would be happy to send the original five pages from my notebook to anyone wishing to carry out such a study.