(Video link here.) We’re getting a little tired of pat ideas about how creativity works, based on “research”. Take Jonah Lehrer’s quick little film debunking the practice of brainstorming: getting a group of people in a room to throw out ideas without have their ideas criticized. The gist is that RESEARCH has shown that every idea having equal weight stymies the creative process, and nothing great ever comes of it. It’s conflict and criticsm that are the real liberating factors in group creativity. Lehrer’s thesis is a limited and, in our experience, untrue view. Ask anyone whose ever been to a coop board or town hall meeting.
It leaves us wondering why no one mentions the wonderous practice of collaboration, which is not necessarily about saying ‘yes’, or ‘no’, or ‘that’s a bad idea’. Rather, it’s about saying — or thinking — a simultaneous ‘YES, AND…’.and ‘WHAT IF WE…..?’.
It’s more of a comedian’s or stage improv approach, as Tina Fey outlined so brilliantly in her 4 1/2 rules. Its essential principal is to say ‘YES, AND…’, to keep trying on ideas to see where they take you.
Then ideas build upon ideas. And what you get is a great deal more than the sum of the parts (or collaborators).
Related posts: tina fey’s 4 1/2 rules (in 4 1/2 minutes)
steven johnson on cultivating good ideas (daily)
creative process: doing this-or-that ‘in your head’
junot diaz on having a slow ‘creative metabolism’
pablo neruda on the creative process