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There are several things leaders can do to increase their own and their followers’ creativity. One popular technique for stimulating creative thinking in groups is called Brainstorming.

Brainstorming is a technique designed to enhance the creative potential of any group trying to solve a problem, Leaders should use the following rules when conducting a brainstorming session.

1. Groups should consist of five to seven people, fewer than five limits the number of ideas generated, but more than seven often can make the session unmanageable. It may be more important to carefully decide who should attend a session than how many people should attend

2. Everybody should be given the chance to contribute. The first phase of brainstorming is idea generation, and members should be encouraged to spontaneously contribute ideas as soon as they get them. The objective in the first phase is quantity, not quality.

3. No criticism is allowed during the idea generation phase. It helps to clearly separate the activities of imaginative thinking and idea production from idea evaluation.

4. Freewheeling and outlandish ideas should be encouraged. With some modification, these ideas may be eventually adopted.

5. “Piggybacking” of others’ ideas should be encouraged. Combining ideas or extending others’ ideas often results in better solutions.

6. The greater the quantity and variety of ideas, the better. The more ideas generated, the greater the probability a good solution will be found.

7. Ideas should be recorded. Ideally, ideas should be recorded on a blackboard or butcher paper so that members can review all of the ideas generated.

8. After all of the ideas have been generated, each idea should be evaluated in terms of pros and cons, costs and benefits, feasibility, and so on. Choosing the final solution often depends on the results of these analyses.

An additional thing leader can do to enhance creativity is to see things in new ways, or to look at problems from as many perspectives as possible. This is, though, easier said than done. It can be difficult to see novel uses for things we are very familiar with or to see much in novel ways. Psychologists call this kind of mental block function fixedness. Creative thinking depends on overcoming the functional fixedness associated with the rigid and stereotyped perceptions we have of the things around us.

Another way to see things differently is to try putting an idea or problem into a picture rather than into words. Feelings or relationships that have eluded verbal description may come out in a drawing, bringing fresh insights to an issue.

Bernard Taiwo
I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.