I tend to read a ton, and thought it would be a good idea to begin sharing the stuff I find – both good and bad - with the readers of this blog.
I was recently shopping at my local Barnes & Noble (yes I still shop at brick and mortar bookstores, and yes I still buy books at them), and was intrigued by a book called “Brainsteering.” The reason behind my interest in the book was that ever since I had forged out into the world of business and marketing, brainstorming sessions had become a must. At the same time, I had also noted their complete failure most times to get a desired need from Point A to Point B. So if this book could offer what it promised on its cover, “A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas,” then it could very well become a handy tool in SteelCast’s arsenal.
Brainsteering was written by two brothers, Kevin and Shawn Coyne, and rather than me give the gist I will just copy and paste from Amazon:
Tired of interminable brainstorming sessions dominated by a few bloviating blowhards–and rarely resulting in a usable idea? Good news: it’s not only frustrating, it’s been proven to be ineffective. While we all need a regular influx of breakthrough ideas, there’s got to be a better way of sparking that creativity–and the brothers Coyne present a cogent way of doing it. They introduce readers to techniques for asking the right questions and sparking more powerful ideas. The concept underlying “brainsteering” is to encourage users to focus, to look into an idea deeply rather than ricocheting around, brainstorming-style. The Coynes present a number of real and proposed business cases, including successes like Forever Stamps and Jiffy Lube. Their logical thinking exercises will help readers to maximize their ideation skills, both by systematically exploring every possible nook and cranny of an issue to find new ideas, and by systematically evaluating and honing the results.
So essentially the model I taught all of my eight grade students about webbing is completely wrong. Probably why I know longer have that job.
The book goes into detail about how to steer a group of people toward solving problems rather than free-flowing brainstorming. Problems do not necesarrily have to be an “issue,” but rather a situation that needs a resolution. The core foundation of brainsteering thus becomes not the process of how we get to the answer, but how we set the foundation through question formation.
If you think about every great invention ever made, it is unlikely its beginning came about from free-flowing brainstorming. I can’t imagine Steve Jobs sitting around saying, “What can I create that is cool today?” .. it is a lot more likely that he stated questions like, “How can we take our success with the iPod and make a play in the growing mobile market?”
Essentially Brainsteering takes heavily from the “Socratic method,” where you devise a system of questions that lead you to a breakthrough.
The concept is as powerful as it is simple. There is not a single company that does not live and die by its ability to think both critically and rapidly. Having a proven method to instill in your team to combat ideation can get you the best return on this time. I have decided to begin not only teaching this concept to the SteelCast companies, but also mandate monthly Brainsteering sessions within each company to address major issues the teams are facing. These sessions will be open to members of other teams, since I am also a believer in the fact that a mind freed from first-hand perspective on a topic can sometimes give the best observations.
I would recommend the book, as its a quick read, and it offers very strong examples on how to handle the practice. Any book where you can walk away with a new useful tool is worth the read in my opinion.