Brainstorming is a lot like Where's Waldo.
By the end of a brainstorming session, good ideas, bad ideas, unfeasible ideas, tried-it-already ideas, and a couple amazing ideas are all mixed up on a whiteboard or notepad.
It can be hard to spot the game-changing idea in the sea of almost-but-not-quite-right ideas.
But there's a simple trick, discovered by this study, that you can use to upgrade your team's idea-spotting abilities. Let me explain.
- The setup: A group of employees from the Dutch Tax Ministry agreed to participate in a research study exploring brainstorming techniques. Employees were each given a list of 18 pre-brainstormed ideas for improving public trains and were asked to select the five most creative. Researchers already had creativity ratings for each of the 18 ideas, generated by a group of 10 creativity experts. They compared each employee's rankings of idea creativity against the master rankings to see how successful they were at picking the most creative.
- The twist: But, before completing this task, half the employees were given a special experimental treatment: they looked at a picture of a smiling baby and listened to upbeat music (designed to make employees feel happier), read slogans such as "where there's a will, there's a way," (designed to make them feel more outgoing), and completed a self-affirmation writing exercise (designed to make them feel more confident). The other half of the employee group received no experimental treatments.
- The results: The group that had been made to feel happier, more outgoing, and more confident were much better at correctly selecting creative ideas. Boosting your team's mood can improve their ability to spot creative ideas.