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  • Writer's pictureKaylie Dugan

Brainstorming: A Potent Mix of Science, Freedom and Magic


I met a friend of a friend at a coffee shop last week and was introduced as The Brainstorming Queen (a title I really love a lot). Turns out he has been in the corporate world for years, and he said: “Of the things I’ve done at work, brainstorming is my all-time favorite.” This is a comment I hear a lot, and I started thinking about what makes ideation so enjoyable.

As I mulled it over, I thought ideation at a meta-level is a combination of three things:

1. Science

We’ve learned so much about creativity, group dynamics, and particularly neuroscience since brainstorming was invented in the 1950s. There have been studies to understand creativity, and we now know the factor that is most predictive of possessing talent. It’s simply the belief that you are creative. This finding underscores one of my core beliefs: everyone is a creative genius buried under loads of barriers produced by education and societal norms.

The human brain is meaning-driven. As it takes in new information, the brain attempts to match it with prior understanding. This means the brain is really good at finding patterns and making connections. Better Ideaz™ brainstorming works simply because it gives the brain what it craves – unexpected stimulation that automatically triggers creativity.

2. Freedom

Most of us spend our work life in organizations that require three things: order, control and predictability. So we mostly stay inside the box, excel at our job descriptions, and choose to be team players to get ahead. Playing it safe might be a smart strategy most of the time, but not when it comes to innovation. Better Ideaz provides a safe space where participants can say aloud whatever their minds want to express. During brainstorming, we’re not interested in the “can we do it now?” question. As Thomas Edison said, the best way to end up with good ideas is to create lots of them. And that requires freedom to be chaotic, messy and uncertain.

3. Magic

This quality is a bit harder to pin down, but I have seen it numerous times during brainstorming sessions. There is fun and laughter, permission and openness, growing confidence and expansion. When I’m at the head of the table, I can literally feel an increased energy and belief in the individual and team’s latent creative ability. Remember: the best predictor of creative ability is the belief you have it. When people see their brilliant output drawn on the wall and the Hot Dot votes pointing the way to genius ideas, magic is the best word to express the joy in the room.


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