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Like herding cats: the art of brainstorm facilitation

by | Jul 11, 2022

I ran a brainstorm facilitation workshop online this morning for the lovely team at Stripe Communications – with a focus on the art and science of ‘making things easy’. But for once, it took a bit of effort for me to get in the zone…

There’s this horrible sounding phrase, ‘leakage’, which means that we ‘leak’ all kinds of information about ourselves without saying a word.

Things like our posture, eye contact, head movements, the position of our shoulders, as well as the tone of our voice, energy, mood and engagement with the material.

When it comes to creativity and brainstorming, I think about facilitation as having mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects to it. It’s about getting yourself into a ‘great state to create.’ Sometimes it’s easier to get into than others. Today, it took work.

A baton for brainstorm facilitation

To help me get there, I used the metaphor of conducting an orchestra. By the end, when I hoped I had gained their trust, I asked them to grab a ‘baton’ and conduct the hell out of the William Tell Overture (camera off). I did it too, and got a rush of adrenalin from the exercise.

Quite risky, then. But also high reward – as they seemed to enjoy it too. And the physical movement perked everyone up. I also use Boston Philharmonic conductor, Benjamin Zander, and his wife Rosamund’s book, The Art Of Possibility as a reference for this training, so it didn’t come completely out of nowhere 😉

Zander’s philosophy is that ‘it’s all invented’. So we might as well invent things the way we want them.

“What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?”
What might I now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?”
Benjamin Zander

Cameras off meant that anyone who didn’t want to didn’t have to play if they didn’t want to. Thanks to all for going with it!

Why tools are so important for creative thinking

For my own part, it had been a week of hiccups for all sorts of reasons, so I was really pleased to be able to deliver a successful session when, a short time earlier, I just wasn’t feeling it. We all need a shot in the arm sometimes, and I’m so grateful that I have such a large bag of creativity tools to lean on.

If you want to find out more about the art of meeting and brainstorm facilitation, sign up for one of our courses. I’ll be ‘feeling it’ well in advance, next time: I promise!

Picture credit: Pixabay artesitalia

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