Brainstorming is the popular approach to discover creative new ideas. We’ve all been in team meetings where you’ve been encouraged to share your thoughts, no matter how trivial they might seem, without any judgment from others. Just get your idea out uncensored, share it with the group, because even the most off-beat idea could spark something brilliant.
What if we had it wrong? Using brainstorming for problem solving is not the best strategy. No one is sharing that insider secret with you. Okay, brainstorming sounds sexy, uncensored creative energy without any criticism, but there is a better way.
I’ll admit that I’ve used this approach myself until I learned what really works. Helping athletes improve their mindset for optimal performance requires I step out of the box. The best solutions are not always where we expect them to be.
Imagine – How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer sheds a new light on solving challenges.
Not only does he back up his claim about brainstorming being an ineffective approach with solid research, Lehrer also explains the best possible strategy to resolving a dilemma.
- Finding the flaws
I fully agree with Lehrer that the findings are counterintuitive. You expect to receive the best results with free-flowing thoughts from brainstorming. The research, however, suggests that a healthy dose of criticism sprinkled with debate is the best way to solve problems.
Imagination is “drawn out” when faced with conflict according to Lehrer. Interesting. Criticism is the spark necessary to fix your problems, forcing you to clearly see the flaws so you can make the necessary correction.
Connecting with others to discuss your challenge leads to solutions. Now this might feel uncomfortable to perfectionists. Admitting problems goes against your persona of having it all together.
Figuring out performance challenges on your own slows down your progress. Here’s the dilemma. Either you protect your ego, hoping to figure it out on your own, or risk vulnerability to gain new insight. The choice you make is very revealing.
It’s natural to only want to show your strong side, having others believe you have it all figured out. Our society celebrates strength. Let’s be honest the athlete who appears to be most confident before the start of the race can intimidate opponents just with a confident stance.
The only way to get solutions is to be honest about the challenge. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. As you begin to explore where you are stumped, you’ll find something interesting. There are people who want to help you. Although you are competitive, the serious athletic community is a small tight group. Discover who you trust to support you, be on your team, and be extremely honest with you. You benefit from teaming up with collaborative partners. Develop a network of athletes or coaches you can openly speak with about your struggles.
To reach your highest potential requires stretching yourself. Being uncomfortable is the first step toward playing a bigger game. Conflict leads to solutions. It’s not going to be easy all the time.
Elite athletes recognize the risk of failure is never very far away. Looking for the flaws, the weak spots in your game plan, your approach, technique, mindset, exposes the problems. The willingness to be exposed is the ideal way to reveal the solution. How can you improve if you’re not willing to see your weakness?
Innovative solutions are a discovery process. Expose the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. I challenge you to step out of the box to seek the best approach available to you right now.
Although everyone is doing what is usual and customary it does not mean that is the best solution. Regard it as the most convenient, popular approach currently in vogue. Often the ideal solution lies outside of your domain. Other sports, the arts, science. Be open to all possibilities. Approach your challenge with an inquisitive eye. A fresh perspective leads to breakthroughs.
Follow the Discovery Formula for Performance Breakthroughs
- Debate the problem
- Dismantle your strategy
- Determine where it needs to be tightened up
- Discover new innovative ideas
- Decide on the next steps
Remember brainstorming is not the most effective approach to solving a challenge. Debating the problem, picking apart your strategy to discover where it needs to be tightened up is the way to go. The discovery process leads to new innovative ideas. A fresh set of eyes often sees things which others had overlooked. Breakthroughs result from struggling with a problem and suddenly gaining new insight. The “aha” experience is well worth the effort.
Challenge: Seek out people with integrity. Who do you know that understands your goals, willing to point out the flaws in your performance and explore solutions? If you don’t trust that person then keep looking. Consider stepping outside of your current inner circle to find the right people. They do exist.