Creative leaders draw the best thinking out of the individual team members before calling a general brainstorming session.
This is the assertion in Chapter 1 of Tom Harper’s book, Leading from the Lion’s Den. In his book he presents leadership lessons from every book of the Bible. Consider this one from Genesis:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Gen 1:1
Many organizations today foster creative teamwork through collaborative instant messaging, chat windows, discussion boards, and project groups. My company uses a myriad of technology tools as well as recently construction an entire corporate campus to foster collaboration.
Though today’s online cooperation might appear to be a new kind of brainstorming, it is actually based on a tried and true model of creativity. The old standard concept is simple: the best creative thinking is done when individuals have a chance to think before they collaborate.
Not everyone thinks well in groups. The rapid-fire atmosphere of some brainstorming methodologies can be very disconcerting to some otherwise highly creative members of your team.
Personally, I love that atmosphere. I like the rough and tumble and exchange of ideas. I am happy to put up a “straw man” idea. However, introverts like some pf the folks that I work with need time to cogitate and organize their thoughts before verbalizing them in a public setting.
The original act of divine creativity is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis in the Bible. It was wrought by one mind. God didn’t wait to ask us what we thought or wanted. His vision was clear. He knew what He wanted when He created man.
Later in human history, we had our chance to invent and originate. But not until the Lord had completed his creative work in speaking the world into existence.
Can we consider this to be our model for creativity, too?
We can certainly infer from God’s method of creativity that teams shouldn’t necessarily be preferred over individuals.
The problem with large group brainstorming sessions, according to some social researchers, is that for all of that combined creativity, they rarely enhance the quality of ideas.
Consider these potential reasons:
- Fear of our peers and their evaluation of our ideas.
- Concentrating on other ideas can cause us to forget our own ideas before we get a chance to offer them.
- Going silent because we can’t compete with the bolder group members.
What can we do to be a more creative leader?
One solution to these issues is to collect everyone’s thoughts before the meeting. Give them advance notice that there will be a meeting to resolve and issue and give them time to think without distractions, anxiety, or time constraints. The leader then collects the ideas and distributes an “anonymous” list to the group. Then the team comes together to expand, refine, combine improve upon the submitted ideas. The team can then prioritize the ideas according to cost, schedule, ease of execution or any other metric.
When you need a creative solution, remember the Genesis model. First analyze the issues without the noise of group brainstorming and the influence of the stronger over the weaker. If you do, you will then be able to lead your team through the creative process at peak performance levels and with maximum creative output.
Let me leave you with the words of my dear friend, Rodney J. Mills, Executive Leadership Coach at Centrifuge Leadership. He concludes each email to me with these words.
Photo credit: ideacreamanuelaPps / Foter / CC BY
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