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Creationstorming

There’s plenty of literature out there on how to brainstorm lots of ideas, but unfortunately, the hard part still remains: how to pick the right ideas from a wall of sticky notes and actually turn them into something real? Should that wild idea for a “toaster with wings” really stick around (retro screensavers aside)?

For a handful of internal projects, we’ve been experimenting with a completely different approach. We call it creationstorming, and we’ve found it to be super useful when timelines are tight, resources are scarce, and our heads are otherwise stuck in the clouds.

Fundamentally, creationstorming is about making concrete decisions. Ideas are critically debated in the moment, balancing feasibility and impact with respect to the project’s timeframe and goals. Best of all, the team walks out with something that has actually progressed and become closer to real, not a scattering of ideas that demand regrouping after-the-fact; creationstorming uses thinking and debate as a way to start making in-situ.

We’re still tooling the basic structure, but here’s our approach so far.

RULES FOR CREATIONSTORMING

1. There are bad ideas.
It’s okay to disagree with an idea. Encourage critical debate: challenge others, defend yourself. Wild ideas are welcome, but be prepared to back them up.

2. One idea to rule them all.
Keep the focus on building one solid idea that progresses. Ideas can fork and merge, but don’t lose sight of the goal for the session.

3. Time is short. Think fast, talk faster.
Sessions should be kept as short as possible, so be on your toes and be concise. Interrupt long-winded digressions to keep things on track.

In addition to the rules, we’ve also been sure to include three other components on a cheatsheet in each creationstorming session: the overall project goal, a list of constraints, and some brief background information to keep the dialog moving.

There is certainly a time and a place for blue-sky generation leading to studio walls full of wild ideas, but for everything else — when there are real-world constraints and complex problems to sort out — consider creationstorming as a productive step forward.

7 Comments

  1. I love the concept…it seems everyone is always trying to come up with new ways get better ideas from shorter meetings.

    The holy grail doesn’t exist. For me its just that balance between dancing through the poppy fields and staying on the yellow brick road. Expansion and Contraction is how a baby is born.

    Would love to see a video of this in action.

  2. Neat ideas on how to do brainstorming in a different way. Do you have more info on the process? More posts?

    Thanks,

    Rob

  3. mwolfe mwolfe

    Thanks for the feedback, Rob and Ed.

    We don’t have any other posts or videos yet, but this is just the beginning and we’ll be sure to post updates here as things progress.

    We would also love if anyone interested in the idea took a stab at it and shared their experience with us! We’re still learning ourselves :)

    It doesn’t speak directly to creationstorming but Patchwork was the result of essentially the same process in it’s infancy. Starting with the motivation to see what we could build in a day, we quickly refined our ideas down to something concrete and achievable, and set upon designing and building with an already clear objective in mind. As a result, 90% of what is now patchwork was achieved in just two days, between just two people.
    patchwork.teague.com

  4. Would it be ok for me to compare creationstorming as a vision led quest. It seems to assume that the One idea to rule them all *is* the one idea to rule them all. Would be keen to understand what you do to avoid monorail thinking or committethink. Do you have rules for challenging ideas?

  5. […] possible way is a method shared by Adam at Teague Labs they call Creationstorming. I’d like to share the three simple points at the core of their method: RULES FOR […]

  6. mwolfe mwolfe

    Sunil,

    Excellent point. We would hate to see the process simply drive the loudest idea in the room. One idea to rule them all isn’t about picking an idea and staying with it, but rather making sure that by the end of the process you are left with one excellent idea, rather than a wall full of OK ideas.

    This works in tandem with the first rule: there are bad ideas. The way we practice this is by keeping one idea on the board. Anyone in the room is then able to criticize, rebuke or defend that idea, and when a better idea is found, it replaces the idea on the wall (one idea to rule them all).

    The goal is to keep the conversation focused and driven, while hopefully avoiding any monorail thinking. We don’t have a rule for challenging ideas, but rather it is what is at the core of creationstorming.

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