Program: High Voltage Brainstorming: Leading Teams to More Brilliant Ideas Faster
Speaker: Rick Brenner
Date: February 18, 2016
Time: 5:30-6:00 PM ~ Sign-In, Get Acquainted / Networking and Appetizers
6:00-7:30 PM ~ Evening Program
Location:USM, Portland Campus, Abromson Center, 88 Bedford St, Portland, ME
Pre-Registration: Encouraged but not required. For PMI Maine Members who pre-register, the cost of the event is $5.00; Cost for Non-Member is $10.00. Registration at the door is $20.00 for both Members and Non-Members.
College students attend free if they pre-register online and present a student ID at check-in. Enter the discount code STUDENT when you pre-register on-line.
Directions to the event can be found at http://www.pmimaine.org.
High Voltage Brainstorming
Leading Teams to More Brilliant Ideas Faster
Brainstorming is probably the method most widely used by groups for generating ideas. Too bad it doesn’t work as well as most people believe.
It has a long and storied history. First designed in 1940 by Alex Osborn, of advertising and marketing fame, it provides a structured method for creative collaboration. But beginning even before the invention of brainstorming, psychologists had been uncovering significant inherent limitations in group collaboration, especially for knowledge work. And beginning in the early 1990s, they have been finding strong evidence that brainstorming, in particular, has serious weaknesses. The evidence suggests that the risk of brainstorms producing results that omit superior ideas, or which include some truly inferior ideas, is unacceptably high.
And that’s when brainstorming is done “right,” according to Osborn’s design. Unfortunately, because most brainstorm sessions don’t follow Osborn’s design, they can be even more susceptible to the defects psychologists have uncovered.
What can we do about this?
This program surveys the weaknesses of brainstorming, and proposes approaches that mitigate those weaknesses. Participants learn:
- How (and why) organizational leaders influence results even when they don’t directly participate in brainstorm sessions
- The sources of risk that brainstorming might fail to produce a broad array of high-quality ideas
- The place of brainstorming in the overall problem-solving process
- The effects of cultural and language differences
- The effects of group size
- How personal preferences affect one’s ability to contribute
- How to mitigate the effects of intragroup and organizational politics
- How to mitigate and then exploit the effects of cognitive biases
- How to use personal differences to enhance results
- Alternatives to conventional brainstorming
Rick Brenner is principal of Chaco Canyon Consulting. He works with people in dynamic problem-solving organizations that are making products so novel or complex that they need state-of-the-art teamwork and stronger relationships among their people. In his 30 years as a software developer, project manager, software development manager, entrepreneur, consultant, and coach, he has developed valuable insights into the interactions between people in complex dynamic environments, and between people and the media in which they work.
As a coach, he works with managers at all levels, emphasizing development of interpersonal skills, especially in fluid, high-stress contexts, such as organizations that are moving from a strict operational orientation to one in which ongoing operations must compete for resources with special enterprise-scale projects. Such a mixed environment creates organizational stresses that leaders must understand, not only because of the change-related issues that arise, but also because of the challenges to managers that they create, even when equilibrium is attained.
Over a period of seven years, he attended or assisted in numerous workshops under Jerry Weinberg, Dani Weinberg, and Jean McLendon. It was during this period that he acquired his skills in designing and facilitating experiential education. He was a founding member of the AYE Conference.
Mr. Brenner has held positions at Symbolics, Inc., and at Draper Laboratory, both of Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Symbolics, he was responsible for development of products based on Macsyma, a computer algebra system. At Draper, he was a principal investigator in a DARPA program, the Evolutionary Design of Complex Software, where he conducted research into advanced concepts for software development environments based on dynamic object-oriented programming languages. From 1993 to 2014, he taught Spreadsheet Models for Managers, a course he devised, at the Harvard University Extension School.
He serves as the facilitator and group administrator for a discussion group he created at LinkedIn.com: Office Politics, Workplace Politics, and Organizational Politics. Discussions there are energetic and enlightening. The group now has over 900 members.
Mr. Brenner holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT. He is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), the Boston Software Pro-cess Improvement Network, and the Agile New England Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. He has served in various leadership roles ranging from board member to vice president to chair (president) in local chapters of these societies. He was selected Chapter Member of the Year for NSA New England in 2001 and 2007. He is a member of the Project Management Institute.
His current interests focus on improving personal and organizational effectiveness in abnormal situations, such as dramatic change, enterprise emergencies, and high-pressure project environments. He has written a number of essays on these subjects, available at his Web site, http://www.ChacoCanyon.com/ and writes and publishes a free weekly email newsletter, Point Lookout, which now has just over 3,000 subscribers.