Home Winsights No. 72 (January 2004)
"Effective Problem-Solving"

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Summary of Brainstorming Rules

Brainstorming — as many idea responses as one can possibly come up with in a limited period of time — helps us to overcome the reflexive squelching we all too typically do of our own ideas, not only everyone else's! Brainstorming helps us overcome the reflexive criticisms that others long have made of us that we've internalized. It helps us to get ideas out on the table where they can be properly examined for merit, rather than just reflexively consigned to the void.

Brainstorming is,of course, characterized by an intentional temporary burst of focused creativity, generating as many answers or entries or ideas as possible, deferring all judging and choosing until later. One has to be willing to make wrong and even silly entries to get to the best and greatest ideas. In most brainstorming sessions and groups, the best ideas show up near the end of the session, and the more ideas generated or the longer the session runs, the better the ideas become. A summary of the "rules":

  • Speak first, think later.
  • Don't take time to object, judge or argue, just go ahead with the next entry.
  • Express and record all entries, the more the merrier.
  • If it occurs to you in the context, express and record it, save the judging for later.
  • Let flow too rapidly to have time to judge or to think whether something should be said, just let it rip.
  • Be willing to be wrong or even silly. History and research both show that what turns out to be the best ideas are usually the ones that were greeted with a burst of laughter because they seemed so absurd. Be alert to that burst of laughter as potentially a great idea in disguise.

Three Project Renaissance procedures are descendants of "Brainstorming" and are close enough to it for the above "rules" to apply to them also. The three related forms are Freenoting in the T&L Techniques section; Windtunnel as expanded upon below, and the Final Exam review procedure (Winsights No. 52). Windtunnel, whether the original one in Winsights No. 55 or the version set forth below, may indeed be fairly characterized as "brainstorming — with attitude"!

Whether you use any of these, or some other formal problem-solving method altogether, the important thing is to seize on and take stalling-points into actual problem-solving so you and your enterprise don't stall out.


A Focus for Windtunnelling

Brainstorm many entries, answering either or both those two questions:  What are some great ways to solve the problem identified by whatever objection; and what are some of the many great ways to turn some of the objections voiced into an actual great advantage? Out of the many, pick the "biggie," or at least the one which would be most interesting to solve.

On what you've selected, you can then either run Windtunnel as a complete problem-solving procedure, or use Windtunnel to get a lot of the matter done and then let it lead into other forms of creative problem-solving method, for completion.

  • What was the most interesting objection or problem thus far? Please write it out, get it as concrete as you can.
  • Form pairs, and work in pairs.
  • If the question is new to consideration, you can go straight into it with the instructions which follow. If the question is familiar, then break it into three narrower questions, then arbitrarily choose one to answer as in the original Windtunnel procedure in Winsights No. 55, purpose to get the Windtunneller as fast as possible past his or her short-cuts and stock speeches on the subject. ...As fast as possible getting the "Windtunneller" to the "flounder-around-and-dig point" — it's that floundering around and digging that's productive of fresh perceptions and ideas. No let-up, no hesitations, no pauses....

Here are your instructions for "Windtunnelling":

In each pair,

  1. Choose which of you is Listener and which of you is "Windtunneller." (30 seconds.)

  2. Windtunneller: — very rapidly, very quickly and without pause or hesitation describe everything that comes to mind on this question. — For eleven straight minutes (or until your facilitator calls time; don't wait up expectantly until then, plow on!).

  3. Listener: — note down the 2-3 most interesting-to-you points or ideas you hear going by. (Don't try to write down everything or you'd be slowing the Windtunneller when we want him/her to speed up.)

  4. Windtunneller, jot down the 1-2 most interesting things you heard pass your own lips. (1 minute)

  5. Both of you: — compare notes on what was most interesting. (4 minutes)

  6. Both of you: — develop a new question out of what was most interesting. (1 minute)

  7. Both of you: — reverse roles. Former Listener becomes new Windtunneller; former Windtunneller becomes new Listener.

  8. New Windtunneller: — describe everything that comes to mind for you on this new question. — In a torrent, rapidly, without pause or hesitation, for eleven minutes (or until your facilitator calls time; don't wait up expectantly until then, plow on!).

  9. New Listener: — note down the 2-3 most interesting-to-you points or ideas you hear going by. (Don't try to write down everything or you'd be slowing the Windtunneller when we want to speed him/her up.)

  10. New Windtunneller: — jot down the 1-2 most interesting things you heard pass your own lips. (1 minute)

  11. Both: — compare notes on what was most interesting. (4 minutes)

You may want to develop the results into a yet further question. Once you have that, you can go the same process again and be nearing a potential solution, or take that further question into a different problem-solving process already well on the way to solving it.


A Perspective

When I started Psychegenics in 1973 and the Project Renaissance phase of this effort in 1977, I was in the first flush of enthusiasm at the discovery of simple techniques which enable just about anyone to solve his or her own problems. What a world ours could become, I thought, if everyone WAS perfectly capable of and equipped to solve the problems that were around — including some of the problems of general concern.

And where more appropriate to start this effort than in my own country, the United States of America, whose people had not yet, I thought, been beaten down into peasant passivity and pessimism.

Well, it was true indeed even of the methods we had at that time, to say nothing of the further methods (with Windtunnel being but one example) which have come along for us since, as others would for you, should you begin using Toolbuilder. These methods really do enable just about anyone, regardless of background or of seeming inabilities, to readily and ingeniously solve the problems they are applied to.

My estimation of how ready and willing people are to solve their own problems, even in my own country with its traditions of invention, innovation, "American know-how," and of figuring out how to make things work, appears to have been somewhat off, alas, for whatever reasons. Even in groups and organizations centered on creativity and creative problem-solving! Most people believe they can't solve their own problems, much less the greater problems facing all of us — even when they have the methods and have been walked through them to effective answers in demonstration trainings.

Concurrently, it also appears that if people were more fully conscious of the choices they were making, they would make different choices. This includes issues of health, not only problem-solving.

So here is my message in this article:


Summary of Message
  1. You can not only solve your own problems easily, effectively and ingeniously, by the methods we've published in this website, including Windtunnel in this very article — as well as by methods published elsewhere by others —
  2. You can make great progress on the job, in your career and in your life, simply by practicing picking up when a difficulty or objection is stalling you....
  3. ....Turning that difficulty or objection into a formal stated problem; and —
  4. — by Windtunnel or by any of several hundred various excellent available specific methods,
  5. Setting forth with specific method(s) to solve that specific problem.

This seems to me also to be an excellent agenda for that winning investment of two to three hours each Friday (or whichever regular day), meeting together with your co-principals in your enterprise, and drawing out each other's most sensitive perceptions regarding your enterprise and its situation. Any profit-seeking enterprise which makes this its practice will soon break through the top of the charts.

Firm or no, much more of your own life and prosperity is right directly in your own hands, your own choices, than perhaps you've grasped as yet. Here are tools and here is a way to use them.


Comments to:
Win Wenger

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