Ask Taylor Swift about haters.
As one of her countless fans, I admire her power of invention; I appreciate anyone who is a prodigious effectual creative thinker. Speaking about her “Shake It Off” lyrics, which is a good lesson in brushing off criticism, Swift said that growing up, she heard a phrase, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.”
Brainstorming is a kind of game with ardent fans. Tom Kelly, a partner at IDEO, asserts the power of brainstorming, for example. If you’re also an enthusiast, you might be surprised to discover that there are brainstorm haters. Richard Huntington, Chief Strategy Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi London, is one, writing,
Hunntington cleansed his professional life of this trojan horse of mediocrity and suggests that you give brainstorming the boot, too.
If brainstorming works for you, by all means, keep at it. (However, I suggest assessing the resulting idea of a brainstorming session for originality, relevance, and potential resonance.) If you find brainstorming frustrating, hate the game and not yourself, the “playa.” What’s more, I suggest employing a new idea-generation method that is far less frustrating and yields worthwhile results–the Three Gs. You can use it individually or on a team.
Goal: what you want to achieve
Gap: the missing piece, the void your idea will fill
Gain: the benefit for individuals, society, business, or the planet
The value of the Three Gs is this: When you identify a goal, a gap, and a gain, then you know your consequent idea will have value.
A goal alone is not enough. Having a goal doesn’t make it worthwhile—it might be an ill-conceived goal or a goal that will cause harm to individuals, society, business, creatures, or the greater environment. Recently, we’ve seen too many examples of people who generate frivolous or dangerous ideas. When you determine that your goal fills a gap and produces a gain, you’ll know it’s not ill-thought-out, will not cause harm, and will be needed or wanted.
The Three Gs is a brand-new framework for ideation. Anyone can use it effectively. As an ideation consultant, creativity scholar, and professor of design, I have witnessed people from diverse disciplines, industries, and careers—everyone from product designers in their innovation labs to CEOs and CMOs—start to approach idea generation differently, with better outcomes and far less frustration. In fact, thousands of creative professionals whose careers demand the generation of many ideas on a daily basis can do so because they studied with me. No other framework points you in this direction—that is, on the path to ideas worth pursuing.
Furthermore, with perhaps the exception of IDEO, if you think brainstorming is foundational to how award-winning creative professionals work, think again.
Creative teams in advertising and branding and other design experts do fruitfully collaborate in work sessions however they come to the table having conducted research into the problem or issue at hand; they work with a thoughtfully crafted goal and have done due diligence searching for gaps before engaging in open dialogue. And if their ideas get results, you know they have thought about the benefit–the gain–for their audience, whether it’s individuals, society, business, creatures, or the planet’s health.
Though brainstorming wasn’t intended for people working solo, people do use it and often walk away with a mediocre idea or blank page. Why? The brainstorming framework doesn’t provide a method for actually forming or conceiving an idea!
Hate is a strong word that I reserve for tyrants and other evil-doers. I don’t hate brainstorming; I just don’t use it or ask my university students to employ it.
Swift is back on the concert circuit. Demand for tickets was so great that it overwhelmed ticket sellers. Clearly, there are many lovers of her music.
Suppose you love brainstorming; best wishes to you. If you “hate” it, shake brainstorming off and try the Three Gs.
About the Author:
Robin Landa is a distinguished professor at Kean University and a globally recognized ideation expert. She is a well-known “creativity guru” and a best-selling author of books on creativity, design, and advertising, including The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential. She has won numerous awards, and The Carnegie Foundation counts her among the “Great Teachers of Our Time.”