As Teresa May’s Cabinet re-assembled this week, reports suggested it would ‘brainstorm’ to review progress towards Brexit. Here’s why that didn’t happen:
Media reports surfaced this week [29 August 2016] accompanied by official images of the cabinet room, chock fulla ministers surrounding the Prime Minister, and looking like a version of The Last Supper as portrayed by Banksie.
The Guardian lampooned the suggestion by asking a few creative thinking and team-building consultants how brainstorming might work:
Get them out of the the Westminster bubble, was one Guardian suggestion. More audaciously, dress them up as penguins, was another.All the gurus agreed the location and the composition of the team were both serious inhibitors to success in an attempt to create useful and imaginative ideas for Teresa May’s most serious political problem in the absence of dealing with a functional opposition.
I recently suggested how brainstorming might work. The topic is important, such as finding a new advertising slogan
Various earlier posts in LWD have looked at the scope and limitations of brainstorming as a means of creative problem-solving.
Technically, a brainstorming provides a structure and a few principles which help individuals (or more commonly groups) to challenge and go beyond old beliefs and ideas.
Newer versions such as electronic brainstorming are appropriate for ‘virtual’ groups operating remotely.
Anyone interested will find information in the most recent edition of my textbook Dilemmas of Leadership, and its chapter on creative leadership, which provides a good starting point for studying the subject.
Misunderstanding of brainstorming is widespread. Politicians and business people us it as any attempt to dream up ideas. (My favourite misunderstanding was a well-known politician who made the perilous journey from Westminster to the bandit territories of the North to take part in a brainstorming. Unfortunately he had accepted because he imagined he had been invited to make a barnstorming speech about his department’s achievements.
Brainstorming: a personal view
After much effort and numerous publications, I have reached a view that brainstorming in the narrower sense requires:
a topic to be considered,
a structure which tries to overcome preconceptions participants interacting to overcome social and psychological barriers
a person experienced and skilled in facilitatating the process
and a physical space conducive to new ideas.
These conditions do not completely preclude the possibility of a Cabinet meeting carrying out a brainstorming. But they do make it highly improbable to function effectively. The more guarded and invested in a prior idea the participants are, the less likely there is of a positive result.
And with that, I rest my case.