Situational Brainstorming

Jan 15, 2021


We all know how to brainstorm: lots of ideas, no judgment. Good leaders must address the nuances presented in various situations. Here are some tips!

What would you call matter synthesized from exact ratios of protein and small particle dispersion of emulsifiers? Well, spumoni ice cream, of course!1 Technically, these colorful layers of chocolate, pistachio, and cherry are milk sherbet, or sherbet combined with milk.2, 3 This delightful dessert traveled from Italy to America in the 1870s. Then, as documented in the Star Trek episode Such Sweet Sorrow, traveled into the future aboard the USS Discovery in the year 2257– oh, for you Trekkies, that’s stardate 1050.8.4

In that same episode, our beloved Star Trek Discovery crew struggles to solve a problem in a boardroom setting. You may not relate to synthesized matter, yet I am sure you can relate to a brainstorming session governed by the rule: there are no bad ideas. That rule applies on the Discovery, too, until Captain Georgiou suggests “firing an antimatter missile into a star's core to induce a supernova”. In response, both Admiral Cornwell and Captain Pike confirm Georgiou’s idea is, indeed, a bad one! Dejected, Georgiou says, “I thought there were no bad ideas.” Perhaps the only bad idea is one that would “destroy all life within several light years” of a star.5

How do we get the most out of brainstorming sessions in the following situations?

  1. Problem-Solving: Typically, during a trouble-shooting session, time is of the essence. It’s hard to be inspired under intense pressure or critical deadlines! Leaders must create an environment that is safe and judgement free. Often, one crazy or intentionally poor idea leads to a viable option or helps tie several options into a compelling solution.
  2. Coaching: Certified coaches are trained and evaluated on their ability to refrain from offering their own advice or affirming the validity of the client’s ideas. Coaches and leaders can, however, partner in brainstorming sessions while allowing the client or employee to fine-tune and select their own best course of action.
  3. Planning: I notice when meetings are labeled as strategic, participants tend to be more reserved in their contributions. The word strategy implies a singular wisdom, something brainstorming, by definition, should be devoid. Sound strategy is rarely introduced early, it simply develops through bold, innovative conversation.

So, what does spumoni have to do with firing an antimatter missile? Not much! But, if we didn’t have brainstorming, we wouldn’t have spumoni or antimatter missiles. Let’s face it, even the fictional future has bad ideas. Brainstorming is not about bad ideas or good ideas, it’s about creating space, being bold, and avoiding criticism– all while addressing the nuances presented in each situation. Kick off brainstorming sessions by quickly solving an issue from outer space just to get the team into the flow of generating fresh concepts while having fun. Laughter always helps! Oh, and so does ice cream!

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Sources: 1 Fandom: Spumoni Ice Cream; 2 Serious Eats: Spumoni Ice Cream Terrine Recipe; 3 Slice of Brooklyn: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Spumoni; 4 Fandom: 2257; 5 Fandom: Such Sweet Sorrow Episode; Fun Fact: National Spumoni Day is celebrated August 21st in US.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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