Unlike any other scientific measurement (a barometer, Richter Scale, yard stick, speedometer, glucose monitor or density index), creativity and its output – ideas – have no standardised basis of measurement.
Since there’s no universal constant or benchmark to measure creativity or ideas, everyone evaluates them differently, based on their individual perceptions and perspectives. The problem becomes more acute when agreement between different parties is necessary. How can two people determine the best idea? What system do they use? Democracy? Seniority? Fists? It’s similar to judges in a beauty contest using different standards to select the prettiest girl. There’s no way to crown a deserving winner.
I once had a client who deliberately avoided any responsibility on the matter, saying: “Oh, I’ll know a good idea when I see it.” The honest truth is this: he didn’t, and you won’t either. You can’t know whether the idea in front of you is good or bad or anywhere in-between because you haven’t given proper consideration about what you’re looking for. Trust me, you do not want to an important decision to be made solely on the emotional state at the end of the brainstorm. You need creative criteria.
Without agreement on specific criteria, the repetitive ailment of creative churn sets in. For whatever reason, the brainstorm host or client dismisses the first set of ideas without explanation or direction. Team members have no option but to return blankly to the proverbial drawing board to come up with … well, something else. It might sound like a good idea to continue generating more ideas, but the principle of ‘diminishing returns’ quickly sets in.
In reality, the problem isn’t generating ideas, the problem is generating ideas with purpose. Idea after idea is suggested by a team who doesn’t know what to create, and are discarded by the host or client who doesn’t know what they want. The sad part is the very best ideas – which would have accomplished the collective goal for everyone – end up as damaged goods. Instead, all parties compromise on a lesser idea which isn’t as exciting and compelling as the original.
Stop creative churn by putting two preventative measures in place.
- Define specific criteria in advance of the brainstorm how you will select the best ideas.
- Don’t conduct additional brainstorms until you’re able to get specific feedback, reasons or considerations from the host or client on why the ideas aren’t what they wanted.
What other ways have you tried to limit creative churn?