March 04, 2010
The Third Eye of the Brainstorm

Nowhere in the human psyche is the conflict between the need for independence and the need for support more pronounced than in the creative act, especially the very specific act of generating new ideas in a group -- an activity that has come to be known as brainstorming.

Historically, most people have believed that ideas come to them like bolts from the blue, flashes of inspiration that descend from the
beyond -- a dimension free of the laws of Earth.

Even the modern dictionary speaks of ideas as "transcendent entities." The implication of this way of thinking is that people need to be highly attuned in order to attract new ideas -- becoming a kind of channel through which ideas flow.

The importance of other people, in this approach, is almost non-existent.

Thus the desire for many creative types to seek solitude, moon howling, and any number of artificial stimulants -- whatever it takes to increase their chances of tapping into the exoteric source of brilliance.

But there is another way to get ideas -- a way that does not require solitude, long walks, opium, or surprise visitations from the muse. Quite the contrary.

This approach requires people -- committed people who come together with a focused intention to collectively tap into the unknown, unseen, and untried.

For want of a better word, let's call this activity "brainstorming" -- the creative act by which exciting new ideas are generated through the catalytic action of one mind upon another.

Or, to put it more simply, two heads are better than one.

Unfortunately, the word "brainstorming" has become totally abused in our culture. Like the phrase "Web 2.0," it is applied to anything and everything until it means absolutely nothing.

Meeting with friends to talk about a business deal? "We're brainstorming."

Tossing a few ideas around over cappuccino? "Um... brainstorming."

Kicking around a concept for a screenplay? "Brainstorming, dude."

Not really.

What most people call brainstorming these days is usually just a veiled attempt to impress others with their particular brand of "genius," a caffeinated opportunity to trot out pet ideas, foist opinions, or play out a lifelong ambition to dominate a group.

Brainmisting? Maybe. Braindrizzling? Sure. But not brainstorming. Uh-uh. No way.

Real brainstorming is different. Very different.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at March 4, 2010 12:03 AM

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