The Level III Brainstorming Method

Often, people are heard talking about innovation and creativity. Coming up with truly new ideas are not as easy for some as it is for others. A few years ago, I experimented with a technique that allows me to adjust my level of thinking from every day creative to truly innovative ideas when problem-solving. After finding much success with this method, I introduced it to my teams.

In one instance, I asked a team from a well-known organization to come up with some creative ideas through brainstorming. Their directive was to bring the list back to me on paper versus an email. When they handed me the sheet of paper, they appeared to have a sense of pride in the 30 ideas they had written down. I took the paper, looked at them and without glancing, ripped it in half. From their reaction, you would have thought I ripped their paychecks in half! I told them all the ideas listed were no longer options. Initially, they felt that by refusing to accept their ideas placed them in a creative deficit. What they did not realize is that I actually gave them an advantage.

You see, there was nothing wrong with those ideas but typically, the first-level of thinking is a spin-off or an iteration of something already known. It is usually adjacent space type of thinking. In quick day-to-day problem-solving, the standard brainstorming method works. However, what I was looking for was true innovation so they had to dig deeper.
I asked them to go back and conduct round-two and when they brought the list back …yes, you guessed it…this time I crumbled the paper and asked them to dig even deeper. As you can imagine, there were fewer ideas on the list – only about seven to ten. By the time I received their third list, they nervously questioned what I was going to do with it. I responded I was going to implement one of the innovative ideas. There were only two ideas on the page. One of which made the company quite a bit of revenue!

It can be difficult to get to truly innovative thinking that is disruptive or disconnected from your everyday thinking, but when completed correctly you can reach higher levels of creativity and innovation. Although there is a place for first and second-level thinking, knowing when to use adjacent ideas versus truly unique ones is absolutely critical. Determining the appropriate level is dependent upon the amount of time available, the level of risk you are willing to accept and how much value can be added by being truly unique.

I challenge you to test out your third level of thinking and see what you come up with; especially about something you’ve previously had difficulty solving. I also challenge those of you who are looking to drive revenue and distinguish yourselves from the competition to try the Level 3 Brainstorming Method.