How to Brainstorm with more than One Brain: observation on the creation of ideas

Objective: put 5 people in a room together from different walks of life, with different missions in life, and come up with ideas for a new venture we would want to start. Come up with these ideas without supervision or direction.

This was the objective set for my arts entrepreneurship class this week. The ultimate goal of the class is to start one of the ventures collectively with the 5 people in the class.

Overall, I was surprised at how simple and organic the process was. Initially, I was super excited about the idea of starting a new venture on my own. However, when I learned it was a venture that had to be started with the class as a whole, I was less enthusiastic. And yet, as our ideas were created and shared, they all seemed to fit together as though we already talked about what kinds of ventures we wanted to create.

This is how the process went: a few people came to class with lists, either in their heads or on paper, while others came to the table with general ideas and we talked through them until a venture was created around that idea. Those were then written on post-it notes and put on the wall to create a collage of new venture ideas.

Above anything else, the thing I found most fascinating was to sit back and observe the process. These were my main observations:

  • There were lots of different ideas that were proposed, more than I think most of us were expecting, but many of them naturally fit into categories or were ideas that could fit into one over-all framework.
  • It was a very unified process; there was not one dominating voice over all or one person who took on the role of the “instructor.” We all took turns and shared equal responsibility. One person naturally started out being the post-it note wrangler/organizer and then when she sat down or was voicing one of her ideas, another person took over in her place without being instructed to do so.
  • The opportunity was not just one of creating business ideas, but also of sidebars and networking. Someone would come up with an idea and that would cause someone else to get excited in a way that was not related to the conversation. They would then have a quick 30-second to 1-minute conversation on that subject before coming back to the group to continue with the overall conversation. This also seemed to happen in groups, for instance at one point we all found ourselves in small side-bars at the same time, so that the time was never wasted waiting for one set of people to finish and rejoin the conversation.
  • General themes to our business proposals that came up without us discussing them:
    • Performances
    • Classes
    • The barter system
    • Student related ideas
    • Little to no revenue streams, or get-rich-quick ideas

Taking this information, I wonder how well a process like this would work in the real world. It cannot be overlooked that all of us in the class are women, are graduate students, and although we are in different areas of study, we are all still under the larger “arts” umbrella. I would be very interested to see if this process would have worked this well if the people participating were less like-minded.

The overall experience makes me want to sit in on more brainstorming sessions, both with like-minded and non like-minded people, to observe how they interact with one another and how creative ideas come about in the different kinds of environments. As we have been learning in this class, a more creative and wider variety of ideas typically come out of heterogenic environment. Because of this, it might be more beneficial as a process to see how non like-minded people overcome conflict and accomplish the same task.

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