Live Encore: Redesigning Brainstorming for Better Creative Ideas | Esteban Gast | Skillshare

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Live Encore: Redesigning Brainstorming for Better Creative Ideas

teacher avatar Esteban Gast, Writer, Host, and Speaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What is Brainstorming?


    • 3.

      Brainstorming Mistakes


    • 4.

      Exercise: Bad Brainstorming


    • 5.

      Finding Your Brainstorming Values


    • 6.

      Redesigning Brainstorming


    • 7.

      Prompts for Getting Unstuck


    • 8.

      Systems for Better Brainstorming


    • 9.

      Exercise: Better Zoom Meetings


    • 10.



    • 11.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Create better brainstorming environments and systems so you can consistently come up with your best ideas.

Coming up with new creative ideas is one of the most important things we can do—but it’s also one of the hardest! While brainstorming is a tried and true way to generate new ways of doing things, it can also be one of the worst environments for coming up with ideas if it’s not well designed. 

Creator, educator, and entrepreneur Esteban Gast wants to help you have more success with brainstorming. In this session—recorded using Zoom and featuring participation from the Skillshare community—he shares what he’s learned about what causes brainstorming to fail, and how we can create better systems for supporting everyone’s ideas. 

This is a valuable class for anyone who has to brainstorm, whether you’re a manager trying to encourage new ideas from your team or an individual who isn’t sure how to come up with new concepts alone. You’ll learn all about common brainstorming mistakes, hear Esteban’s favorite tips and tricks for more effective ideation, and even do some brainstorms of your own to better understand your creative needs and practice your new skills. You’ll walk away with an understanding of what really good brainstorming looks like for you, a renewed excitement to come up with something creative, and maybe even some brilliant new ideas.


While we couldn't respond to every question during the session, we'd love to hear from you—please use the class Discussion board to share your questions and feedback.

Meet Your Teacher

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Esteban Gast

Writer, Host, and Speaker

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Esteban Gast is an entertainer, educator, and entrepreneur.

He is Colombian, was raised in Puerto Rico and Illinois and currently lives in LA. He taught creativity and design thinking at the college level and co-authored a book on creativity while living in Central Illinois. Afterward, he worked as president of a sustainability-focused Institute in Panama. He was founding COO of Scriptd, a script database and story platform that elevates underrepresented creators. Most recently, he was the star of the TV show Jungletown, airing on VICELAND. He's been profiled in WBEZ talking about using his liberal arts degree to teach engineers how to be creative. He was co-writer of a feature film executive produced by Emmy nominated Kari Skolgand and 13 Reasons Why writer Nic Scheff that you ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Especially now in a creative world that we're living in, creativity of all sorts is so incredibly important, and coming up with ideas big and small and medium-size is one of the absolute best things we can do. Hey, everyone, my name is Esteban Gast. I am a writer, host, and creator, and I think a lot about creativity and brainstorming. I've worked as a writer and host for all sorts of things. I had a VICE show a little bit ago. I co-authored a book on creativity and I've got a few web series on SoulPancake and other online platforms. Today's live class will be all about brainstorming, the skill of intentionally coming up with meaningful ideas. To me, brainstorming is so important because one, I think a lot of people don't do it well. I think it's one of those words that we use all the time. Maybe you even have a negative connotation to it like people think of it like corporate board room where your idea got shut down and things like that. To me, I think brainstorming is so exciting and it's essential and the way I want to talk about it today is a way to create a system of brainstorming that works for you. I'm going to talk you through some of my favorite tips and strategies for brainstorming and we're actually going to do some brainstorming activities together. What you need for this class is your brain, a willingness to dive into things, and something to take notes, maybe a journal or a tablet. My hope with this course is that you walk away with an understanding of what really good brainstorming looks like, what it looks like specifically in your life, and the work that you are creating. I hope that you just walk away excited to create, excited to go through these activities and strategies, and come up with really, really amazing ideas. It's important to note that this class was originally recorded live, which means that at different points, I was interacting with the audience. Let's do it. Let's get to brainstorming. 2. What is Brainstorming?: Hi, everyone. I'm Danny from Skillshare, and I'll be your host today. So Esteban, so excited to have you. Can you just share a little bit about who you are and what you do? Yeah, of course. Right now, I live in LA and for the last whatever, 10, 12, 15 less years I've been in education entertainment. I was a teacher for little bit. Then I went and got a masters when I was teaching at the University of Illinois and I was actually teaching creativity. This super awesome class in the College of Engineering where I'm teaching Creativity, Innovation, and Vision was the name of the course. Very fancy. There I got to co-author a book on creativity and then I was also doing, writing and comedy at night, and over the last few years, it's been this blending of both of the education side and thinking a lot about creativity and having ideas and bringing them to be and helping people do that, then myself literally writing. There's some movie that I helped write and got to help write on different web series, and TV projects, and things like that. Sort of split myself creating and then helping other people create. Awesome. Let's dive in. Love it. Brainstorming. We're getting into it. The first thing is, obviously, brainstorming is really huge word that I think everyone uses and it just says people throw it around a lot. So here's my definition of it. This is putting dictionaries aside. This is me thinking. Brainstorming is this skill of intentionally coming up with meaningful ideas. There's a few words thrown in there. For example, intentionally coming up with meaningful ideas. I don't know if you've ever thought brainstorming or been in a small group brainstorming and you think like, "Why did we do this?" I think some terms were there's a lack of intentionality and we're going to talk a little bit about that. Meaningful ideas, that's another thing. Sometimes people will hire me and they'll say, "Esteban, we want a more creative idea," and I'm like, "W what does that mean to you? Is that more ideas, is that different ideas?" Because I can give you a creative idea that, whatever, it won't help you make money or make an impact. So brainstorming is the scope intentionally coming up with meaningful ideas. A lot of what we're going to talk about is this focus on groups, on small group brainstorming. But also it'll be relevant if you're just doing some solo brainstorming. My hope and my dream is that everything we've talked about is relevant to all sorts of different things. We're talking about creativity and things. So feel free to pick and choose things that work for you. There's no hard and fast rules in creativity. At no point will I tell you, "You're doing it wrong." Great, love it. So that's brainstorming. So I've sort of talked about this, but we're going to review bad brainstorming. We're going to talk about identify what's important to us, literally, the groups that people in this chat are watching this class later, we're going to design a brainstorming process from the ground up that makes sense for us. I'm going to show as many tips, and strategies, and frameworks as I can. Because I have also been in a lot of Zooms and be like, "That was interesting information, but what did I take away?" So my hope is to give you tons of tangible takeaways. All right. So let's just get through it. 3. Brainstorming Mistakes: To get started, I want to talk through what makes a lot of brainstorming unpleasant. Here is mistakes that I see in bad brainstorming, and then we're going to have a chance to share some of this. Here's the mistakes that I see in bad brainstorming. The first one is time. There's two ways of looking at this, is that sometimes people will say, "Hey, let's come up with something new, let's brainstorm," and they'll give themselves like 30 minutes or an hour or something like that. I think time is really a wonderful motivator at times for deadlines. But when you think about creativity, it's sometimes scary to say, "These are the 30 minutes I have to come up with something new," especially if you're in a group, especially in your business. I think for me, it's hard to be creative with a ticking clock. I think the way we think about time, that doesn't mean we don't have deadlines, I think that means rethinking the way that we approach deadlines. Some of the best creativity sessions, the brainstorming sessions I've seen is when it's a pretty long period of time, when they spend a lot of time warming up. It's like a two hour session and maybe the first hour is just coming up with ideas that aren't relevant, silly. Maybe it's making people feel in the room really safe and then we get to it an hour go. That's a brilliant, brilliant use of time. To come in cold, say, "Hey, last time we got 30 minutes, let's hop on a Zoom," and somehow the best idea is going to come from that, to me it doesn't make that much sense. The second thing in terms of time is the time that it actually happens. I don't know for you, but for me, mornings are great, I'm feeling good, I'm having some coffee and like after lunch, I feel really sluggish and I like respond to e-mails slowly, typing one letter at a time. One of the things we're going to talk of time is about is that coming up with ideas is very human focused. We're not designing or thinking about the humans that are involved. If you're scheduling an after lunch session at a point in your day you have these swings of energy and if you're like, "I've scheduled in a time to come up with a totally original idea at 3:00 PM," when I'm usually super-duper, sleepy and lethargic and want to do nothing. My suggestion there is, "Hey, maybe don't do that." Maybe you're just going to get discouraged if you just sit there and you're like, "I can't think of anything." When I think about time, I often will say like, "Hey, let's schedule in more time." Number 1, or two, "Let's be intentional about the time that we're doing this," or if I'm just brainstorming, just me, I will put my phone away, do all these different things. Nothing bother me and then I'll try to do it in the morning or maybe late at night. But I just don't know how many good ideas I've come up with at 2:30 PM. The second thing that happens in small group brainstorming a lot of times is that there's a hierarchy. I think creativity to me doesn't happen really the level that I want it to when there's a ticking clock and it doesn't happen when there's like a boss that I want to impress or there's a political game that I'm playing, or there's just a clear power difference and I need to come up with an idea to prove something. I know this is hard, especially if you're an organization or a company, or in small groups and artists collective what that looks like there are some hierarchies built in. We're going to talk about what it looks like to try to push through that. But to me, I know it's probably not going to be that good of a brainstorming session if they go, "Hey, come, it's 30 minutes, is at 3:00 PM and then we all pitch ideas to the boss and they choose the best on." I'm like, "That's terrifying." Also what happens is no plan. I think this is what happens a lot. We'll come on Zoom or we'll do something. A lot of stuff is on Zoom, or I'll go in a room, or I'll get with writers and we'll be like, "Great, we want to come up with a new idea." Then we'll just sit there and will be like, "Let's start thrown out ideas." I'm like, "Wait, is that the plan? The plan is to just throw out ideas?" That's it for 30 minutes and then just go and continue our day. Something we're going to talk a lot about is systems. I think the more we approach it with systems, the better ideas we have. The last is there's different types of creative expression. To me, I think brainstorming, the way that sometimes we think about it in groups just favorites really loud people or extroverted people, the people who think quickly. I think just because you can think quickly doesn't mean that your idea is the best idea. I think some of our greatest thinkers in history are people who were very thoughtful, people who took solo time, people who journaled, and then shared an idea and the idea grew and grew and grew. I think this thought there's different types of creative expression. Even in the chat, what we were saying, even people it's like, "Oh, I'm more visual, I do my best thinking on a computer, I do my best thinking with the journal." All these different things. Here's the core of it, here's the premise. I know it's sounds simple, but I don't think a lot of people actually think about this that, "Hey, if the goal is you and I, or like a small group, or me, come up with a good idea, then why aren't I building our brainstorming around what we actually need?" I read a lot of author biographies and I go, "How did Hemingway write?" The answer is, usually drunk, which isn't good. But I go, "How did these people write?" But I don't even think about the way that I write or how I worked my best. That is I hope a paradigm shift that we're going to talk about principles, like throw out cool idea does it a certain way or whatever people that we google good brainstorming. Absolutely, that's pretty good brainstorming, or what do you need? When do you work your best? Are you more visual because maybe we shouldn't be in a group throwing out ideas. Are you someone who needs solo time? For me, my best ideas come in the shower or when I'm driving. That means for me, my best brainstorming session is when I get together with someone, we batter on ideas and then we meet in two days, and for two days I just have it simmering in my head. What if that's how we frame brainstorming. We go, "Hey, everyone, here's an idea we're thinking about. Based on what I've talked to all of you about, all of you have a great idea when you're in the shower, so let's meet in three days, you got three showers, let some ideas come together and we'll come back and then we can share that." I think those small paradigm like, why don't we do that if we know this is where we come up with good ideas? Quick question Absolutely. During you are having brainstorming periods where you take the time alone, do you actually take three showers a day? Yeah. This this is a follow-up question. I turn off the shower, I conserve water. I just stand there fully clothed, mimicking as if I'm showering. These are mine. I like that something too that though. It's like if you have an ideal environment for brainstorming but it's on [inaudible] how can you recreate that environment for yourself? Absolutely. Yesterday, I was driving and there's obviously been a lot less traffic because of the global pandemic. I was driving and I was thinking, "Oh, this is such a gift to be in the car." I missed driving and just like being my by myself in the car coming up with ideas. That's where I came up with so many good ideas and I've been missing that totally. Kristine just write in her best idea, his or her, I'm not sure, but their best ideas also come with driving. Totally. The thing that I think is my frustration is that sometimes people talking about brainstorming and they forget or they don't think about, the goal is just to come up with good ideas. Let's think about where we're already coming up with good ideas. Kristine, maybe that means that you sit in the car or drive, or you do something that requires a little brain energy but not that much so your brain wander while you [inaudible] Maybe that's what something that works really well for you. Maybe going for walks would be really great, your brain is focused for your thinking, your subconscious brains doing a lot of the work. I love it. A lot of times people who go, "I love brainstorming," are also the people who are very loud. They go, "Brainstorming is my favorite, I just power over people's ideas and speak loudly," and I'm like, "I don't know if that's the best thing to do." Here is what we're going to do. We're going to do an activity. 4. Exercise: Bad Brainstorming: The first activity that we're going to do is an activity called Bad Brainstorming. Here's what's going to happen. You're going to take out something to write with, something to jot down a lot of brilliant ideas but instead of brilliant ideas, what we're going to write is the worst brainstorming possible. What is your nightmare brainstorming scenario? The goal of this is you don't need to go through this and think too much about this. The goal is to write down a bunch of really bad ideas. I'll share some with you. Like what if in brainstorming, instead of sharing an idea out loud, you actually had to tell someone else and then they shared an idea. Then you can even comment on it. What if someone was an avocado? These are the scenarios we're talking about. Super silly, super bad. Just write down a bunch of ideas. Here's why we're doing this. I'm trying to create a culture of the way I'm using Post-it Notes, state of the art. I'm trying to create a culture. There's absolutely no stress. We don't have to come up with ideas. There's no stress, you can't have a bad, bad idea. [LAUGHING] If your idea, [inaudible]. So just write ideas. The second thing is that we can fail and we can have bad ideas, its judgment free. Sort of no stress bad is okay. We're trying to create this culture literally in this class, I'm just throwing down ideas. The last is, I think humor, it's really critical to creativity because I think humor, kills hierarchy and power. Like if I make a fool of myself, hopefully then it's less of like, oh my gosh, Esteban, is this facilitator or whatever. It's like we're all just trying our best. Now that you know, you're coming up with the worst brainstorming session ever throw those in the project gallery so we can see everyone's. Right in from there, what we will do is we'll pull the things that are really valuable to us individually and collectively in terms of brainstorming. But it all starts with a really silly, ridiculous ideas. Which really silly, ridiculous ideas should be shared no matter what. So throw them in the project gallery, so we can see other really horrible, horrible brainstorming ideas. 5. Finding Your Brainstorming Values: Next I'm going to show you how we can use this activity to find your brainstorming values. What we're going to do is, I'm going to go over to this white board right here. Let's see, there was a lot of public shame, I'm writing down some of the hits, a lot of embarrassment, a lot of unclear direction, people being like, "I didn't know it was brainstorming or no one knows where they're going." What were some other big ones? I felt a common theme that I saw is just about the dynamics of people in the room and judgments being made or people having a louder voice than someone else or things being forced upon people, such as hierarchy, essentially, like there's too much hierarchy. Love that, yeah. Or more creatively said, horrible people dynamics. Horrible people dynamics. Here is often the way that I think about it and here is how I think we, and you individually, can design your own best brand. In practice is identify these things. Silly, not silly, whatever it looks like, and these are very real fears, or exaggerated fears, whatever it looks like, and from here, we literally design around the opposite road. Public shame is what happens if we go somewhere where it's like, how do we create the safest place ever? Unclear interactions, how are we so crystal clear on our goal? Everyone knows at all times exactly what we're doing. Forced to do something. How is it? We've spent a lot of time in buy-in and seeing what people feel comfortable with. Horrible people dynamics. What happens if at the start of brainstorming sessions, we spend a lot of time making sure that the people dynamics are really important? From here, we can say, if we have one hour to brainstorm, and if we know these two, like most of what people fear about group brainstorm is people dynamics. If I have an hour to brainstorm, I maybe will spend the first 20 or 30 minutes making sure that people feel safe and trusted, not even getting that idea right, making sure that this stuff is figured out so then when we do the actual creating the ideas that people feel comfortable enough to share ideas and build ideas and things like that. This stuff, to me, I just like silly separate, but this is literally what I've done. I helped lead a brainstorming session a little bit ago and everyone started complimenting each other and going around and just having this session where everyone was like "We've done amazing work," and then we got into the brainstorm. You know what happen when you feel creatively confident? Is you have more creative ideas. We're going to come back to this, you can see it in the background if you miss it too much. We're going to come back to this and we're going to keep going, but to me, this bad brainstorming just gives us so many insights on the things that we value. It answers this question of what do we value in brainstorming, and if we're being more human-focused, we can design around that. What do we value in brainstorming? We just found out very quickly in a really fast activity. Say, every time we go into a brainstorming session with ourselves or with a small group, these are things that need to happen. If I gave you time, hierarchy, no plan, and different types of creative expressions, that's the biggest mistakes. I say time, create more time, building time, being intentional about time, saying when works for you. When do you work your best? Great, morning. Night. Let's figure it out. Hierarchy is building the culture. We're going to talk a little bit more about that. How do you build a culture where people feel safe and vulnerable and willing to share ideas? No plan is having a plan. I'm going to talk a ton about this because I think one of the biggest lies on creativity is that it just happens and you're floating and then an idea comes to you. I think creativity is basically the system that allows us to get to the really wonderful, beautiful, big ideas. I have a Skillshare class on this. It's called The Creative Toolkit, about the neuroscience of creativity and the way neurologically speaking, we get to more ideas and better ideas and more original ideas. Ideas that other people don't have is a lot of the time using the system. We're going to talk about this system and different types of creative expression, making time for people who are more visual, who prefer brainstorming, who need a walk to come up with their ideas. Designing around that. 6. Redesigning Brainstorming: Now, I want to talk about how these lessons can help make your brainstorming sessions better. Here is my version, and then we'll go to our version and your individual version of what it looks like to redesign brainstorming. To me, the two big takeaways of this mini class, of this live is systems and human focus. If you're taking notes, my notes at the end of this would just be systems and human focus. I bet this is the class, we did it. In terms of brainstorming, this is it. Great. Here's what I'm talking about. Systems like an agenda, a facilitator that prepares a list of questions. Having these systems underneath systems is this focus. What is the goal of brainstorming? Is that lots of ideas? Is it better ideas? How do you define better ideas? Do we diverge and then converge? Is that a system that we want to buy into? Do we want to have these pre-baked ideas and then build on top of them? I think being really clear with the goal. Second is the human focus. We are not machines. Some people will prefer individual time and group time. My thought is, what I've seen is, when people come and they say we need to just do something from scratch, I'm a writer, so they go, "We need to come up with a movie idea." That's terrifying, because it's everything, to meet constraints breed creativity. So it helps. It helps so much when someone comes in with a pre-baked idea. It helps a lot when someone pre-heats the oven before you jump in. For me, the most effective brainstorming sessions or when someone comes in, they set the scene. They do all these things that we've talked about, they make sure everyone feels safe and they go, "Great. Here's five ideas we're thinking about." Here is a general direction, let me give you a few examples of the type of ideas we'd like to have. Great. Now, let's get to it. One of my favorite quotes is also, "If you expect it, pre-correct it," and that is in all sorts. For me, if I expect that I'm going to get distracted by social media, I will walk my phone away and turn off my Internet. If I'm going into a meeting and I expect that there's going to be a really big hierarchy, the boss is going to be there, especially if I'm working with him, take the boss aside and say, "Let's change things up." Maybe you don't sit in the middle of the table and everyone sits around you. Maybe you sit elsewhere. Maybe you let someone else facilitate it. If we expect, these are problems that we expected, pre-correct it. Under human-focused is time. We're not robots, that I work better at different times, that unconscious brain does incredible work. More time is less pressure. Cognitive fatigue. What time of day is it? Save the introverts. Please save the introverts who don't want to share an idea out loud. For some people, raising their hands and sharing an idea is an incredibly scary thing. How do we, if we're in a group, design around that? If we look at this list, if we think systems and human, systems and human focus, what I'm going to do is, every time that we have a brainstorming session, how do we create a system where people feel safe? Maybe it is a thing where we share bad ideas or we share goofy ideas or we assure people that their only goal is quantity of ideas, not quality of ideas. Maybe we do something where people feel safe beforehand and they all share something more personal. How do we create a system for safety? How do we create a system for goals? I've seen people say, "Great, here's the thesis statement. Everything we're doing is guiding towards this." One of my favorite brainstorming tools is a tangent board. If I'm facilitating and I'm trying to grab ideas from people, there's a board where I go, "That's a great idea, that's not relevant, but let's put it on the tangent board. Let's put it on this board where we throw all our extra ideas that are awesome and maybe we'll revisit, maybe they're so good that they'll start something else, but we can't get distracted." I've been in brainstorming sessions where we like try to go one direction and then end up totally over here. We're like, "Why are we talking about the history of France? We're trying to design a car." That might be related to the idea of the tangent board. You'll never know. Yeah, totally. Yeah, I think it's a reason why I think the tangent board is also special, is because of this first one, safety. If someone throws in an idea they're really excited about and you say, "No, that doesn't make sense, that's not the goal." It's a little bit tough, that person is less likely to share an idea. If you share an idea, it's not related and the response is, "I love that idea. That's really interesting. Can we put it on the tangent board and come back to it if we have time. If not, let's find a way to follow up on that." That was some of what we're doing. That person is going to share more ideas. How do we build systems of buying? How do we build systems and have it be superhuman-focused? For me, when I think of brainstorming, step 1 is, what do we really value? What do we really value here? Step 2 is, how do we create a system around that? What we really value is the human-focused. How do we create a system around that? Is the system focus? Let's talk real quickly about some mental mindsets that helped me do a better job brainstorming. Number 1 is this thought that your first idea is rarely the most creative. I think that's a really powerful thing to think about. Your first idea is awesome, great starting point. But it's rarely your first creative. Think, how can I go farther? Especially now that you're solo and maybe you don't have that accountability of other people, "I want to do some of this great. Let me try to take it one step further." Second thing is, you either have a culture by design or by default. The thing I hear the most when talking about brainstorming is they go, "No, everyone feels safe in our room." Or they go, "No, the writers love it here." Or they go, "My collaborators don't think I'm the boss even though I'm the one who pays them." It's like, well, if we're not intentional, if you're not designing the culture, there is a culture by defaulting, that means that you don't have control of it. That means that your collaborative spiel of certain thing because you're not at the beginning saying, "Hey. All I want is ideas. I have no ego about this. Give me feedback. I want the ideas. Let's do this the right way." I said this before, but if you expect it, pre-correct it. If I go like, "This is a thing that maybe happens," instead of being reactionary, be pro-active. Well, and at the beginning, say something and also identifying what's the better idea. I got a lot of emails saying, "Yes, when will you help us come up with better ideas?" I'm like, "What is better idea?" I don't know what that means. So being really clear about the goal. 7. Prompts for Getting Unstuck: Next I'm going to share one of my favorite prompts and tricks for getting unstuck during a brainstorming session. Here are prompts that are really great. How do we create systems where people keep reaching and coming up with more ideas and challenging themselves to go further in their creativity? For me a lot of that is prompts. Is having a facilitator or even a PowerPoint presentation that actually pushes you further. Rather than saying, "Hey guys, we need more ideas." That does nothing. "Hey guys, we need more ideas" makes me feel pressure and is like, I don't know what that means. But saying, "Great, let's use something" is an inspiration. These are some of the quick prompts I'll really quickly go through them. Feel free to write down what is most relevant for you or what makes sense for you and your type of work. To me, when I get stuck, I think of something else as inspiration. I think of nature as inspiration. How would nature solve this problem? Think about this, or Nike or Netherlands or anything else. Sometimes I think, if I'm writing something, how would an author that I love or writer that I love write this? That just helps my brain get going. It's a lot to think how would [inaudible] a romantic comedy movie? I don't know who am I, or I can think of how whatever Christopher Nolan, a director would write a romantic comedy. At the very least, I can start writing there and get that going a little bit. I think a lot of what if questions are really powerful. These two are first because I think they're just like the best. Blank as inspiration or what if. What if Superman use our product? Would if Superman did this? What if we designed this a 100 years ago? Just any what if question opens the possibility of something else. Our goal here is to come up with more ideas. Our goal here is to challenge a group that a lot of times is falling into group think and a what if stops that in its track and goes, "Let's think about this over here." Or just challenges you to think a different direction. Other times I'll change the user. This doesn't mean change the idea, just means, "Hey here's a way to think about things a little bit differently." If I'm writing a movie and I go, "Okay, how would a elementary school kid view this movie?" Maybe it's more visual and there's a song and dance, and I can still make a movie for adults. La la land is a movie that has song and dances and it's for adults. But it just is that inspiration that gets me going. I love the thought of bad ideas designing around that. I think one of the most powerful things you can say if you are facilitating all to yourself, it's, "Let's try to go one step further." I think so often we stop at the first idea because we're really excited. I just wonder what happens if we consistently go, "Okay. Let me spend a tiny bit more time on this. Let me try to go one step further." For me, storyboarding helps. I was just talking to a friend who's a musician, and they were storyboarding, like just being visual in terms of their lyrics, which I thought was really beautiful. They weren't thinking of a music video. They were just coming up with lyrics, and they were visualizing that. I was like, "That's beautiful and awesome." Problem tree is this thing where we think about cause and effects. I talk about it in the other sculpture class. But in short, it is; have you thinking of effect and you try to come up with as many causes as possible. There's a branch and roots try to cause. If we're thinking that people are afraid to wear a mask, let's take a really relevant example now. People right now don't wear a mask. That's the effect that we want to design something around, and these are conversations I had with a non-profit a little bit ago. It's like, what is the cause of that? It's now in the US, unfortunately sort of political, or they don't see the need, or they don't know the science, or they think it looks weird, right? All of a sudden we can go, "Okay. There's political reasons. There's maybe like vain reasons where they feel like they look a certain way. Maybe they feel like they are weak. Maybe they, they don't know the science." It's people who are misinformed, people who don't know this. We can go out there and find all these possible causes for this effect. Rather than saying, I just talked to an organization looking at mask and they're like, "We're going to send everyone a mask" and I'm like, "That's awesome, that's great," but that doesn't solve the problem of people not wearing masks. People right now have access to masks in the United States and they're not wearing them. Instead of trying to solve this, let's try to find the root cause. That's something problem tree does. I think asking "Why, why, why" is powerful. I think a lot of quiet brainstorming is powerful. I think giving people solo time to do that, especially in a group is powerful. A lot of times partner work is really great. You start with a partner and you go to a group of four, and then you go to large group, you go back. Constantly changing the way that you are interacting with someone or brainstorming with someone or sharing ideas with someone. If its partner or large group or smaller group or median group or individual, I think constantly playing with that is something really beautiful. 8. Systems for Better Brainstorming: Now, I'm going to talk about how to build a great brainstorming agenda and other great systems to help you brainstorm. Here's a sample agenda of the way that I would think about brainstorming in a small group. The first five minutes, I'd be super clear about the goal of the brainstorm. What are we trying to do? What is a better idea? Are we trying to come up with something different than our competitors? Are we just trying to come up with a new movie or a new song, or what is this? Then we'll spend 5-10 minutes warming up or pre-correcting, having people feel safe, vulnerable, if there is a difference in power, having people feel comfortable with sharing ideas. Then I'm going to spend 20 minutes for me as many ideas as possible. There's a tangent board that captures ideas that maybe don't directly relate to the goal, but we're going to build ideas and just come up with as many ideas as possible. The way I think about this too is building clusters of ideas. When someone shares an idea, we say yes and what else? We build one idea, leads to more ideas around it. Then we're going to have five minutes and we're going to vote for your favorite ideas with Post-its. On post-it, you can also write feedback. I like voting this way because it's less of a popularity contest. You can write feedback on the post-its. It's just as a moment for people who aren't comfortable sharing in the group to have some of that moment. Then the facilitator will grab the most popular ideas that people voted for, and we would spend a lot of time building upon those ideas. We'll spend 15 minutes doing that. Then the last five minutes, I'd say, "Great, here's the road map, this is part 1. We're going to have another meeting in two days." Maybe I'd give individuals ownership of certain ideas. "Can you think about this? Can you think about this? Can you think about this? Let's meet back here in 48 hours and we'll keep going." Again, tried and true. Literally, the goal of this class is for you to take some of this and make it your own. This is a way that I've seen works. Cool. Two quick questions for you. Just go over again how you use the post-its for voting. Yeah, absolutely. Great question. The way I would do it is, there would be a whiteboard and I'm writing down different ideas that people are sharing, and then what I'll have people do is give them some post-its, and then they can vote for, let's say three ideas. We have a whiteboard full of ideas and I have three post-its. On the post-its, I would put my post-it next to my idea that I'm voting for, that I think it's the best idea. Also, on the post-it though, I can write feedback or another idea. I'm not just voting for an idea. This isn't just like a poll or this isn't like raising your hand. I'm having people literally walk around, look at ideas, choose their favorite, and write feedback as to why this would be. Feedback can be "I love this idea because of this. Well, let's take this aspect over it" or feedback of, "Have you considered this or what if blank." The other question I have to ask about is, a lot of us are creating more in solitude these days or some of us. I know I am for music. Does this thing work if I'm just setting up time to brainstorm on my own? Yes. I'm writing right now for this really cool Australian TV show, and it's really fun. I've been writing more than ever, literally, in the last two weeks. The way I do it is, I almost feel this ingenuity, I go five minutes. What is the goal? The goal is to finish the script or the goal is come up with ideas. I just like post-It notes and I put that post-it at the top of my desk. I have it here, I have the goal here. Honestly, I spent 5-10 minutes, the way that I pre-correct or warm-up is I turn my phone on airplane mode, I clear my space, and this is true and embarrassing, and I spent 5-10 minutes trying to get loose. This is me by myself in this space. This is my bedroom. I just go like, "I'm going to come up with ideas. I'm going to write. Here's the goal, get silly," and I just try to make myself laugh and be ridiculous, something like, here we go. I'll spend a few minutes doing that because I just think that ritual is really important. If I just get into it, I'm going to get tired. I'm going to check my e-mail. I'm going to go on social media or whatever. Then a lot of times, I will chunk other times where I say, "Great. In this script, I'm going to do a first pass. Twenty minutes, I'm going to go through it. I'm not going to edit anything. I'm going to edit nothing. I'm going to go 20 minutes, 25 minutes, set a timer, and I don't stop writing." Then I'd take a break and then I read through it and then I start editing. Then what I do is not just turn it in because I go, great. I know that for me, a lot of time you're just like, yeah, we keep talking about that, the time in shower to me is valuable, so I go, "Great, I'm going to put the script aside. I'm going to give it 24 hours before I send it in." That's what I do almost every single time that I write. Actually, that's not true. That's what I do every time that I write. Well, then the rest of the time I go, "I bet, I don't need to do this." Then I write in my bed and then I get distracted and then I went at YouTube poll and then I go, oh, my goodness, the deadline is due. Then I e-mail them in shame and go, "I'm so sorry, I'll get it to you tomorrow morning," and then I don't sleep well and I'm nervous all night. That's also what happens. But when I do it the right way, better ideas, better scripts, better stories, and I go through this sample agenda. 9. Exercise: Better Zoom Meetings: All right we're going to do another actual real life brainstorm so grab that notebook or that tablet or whatever you're writing and using. What we're going to do is, I was thinking of something that we could brainstorm that would be really valuable for you. The way that I was thinking is that what if we brainstorm, how to make Zoom more interactive and engaging? Maybe you're like me and you're on a lot of Zooms, too many Zooms. I'm thinking, well if we take these systems and processes that help us brainstorm, then we can right now, come up with better ideas on how Zoom can be more engaging and interactive. I'm going to share some pre-baked ideas with you. That was one of the principles that I said. Sometimes it's easier to brainstorm and someone has pre-baked ideas, I'm going to share some pre-baked ideas with you. Let me show you some examples. I'm going to change my background, if you're also listening. This is a game called nose, that's a nose. Here, this is the gauge learning. If I go, "hey, if you like to brainstorm solo or in a smog in with a partner, yellow, or in a large group, green or medium size group boil." What we have here is then you, and then you point your nose. I really like partner brainstorm actually. Two is a good number. Right, so that's one. Another idea would be something like this. Where I go, it's three levels and I go, you've got three choices, vanilla ice-cream, chocolate ice cream, or strawberry ice cream and I would go vanilla. Here we have games where people I can gauge learning a little bit as people play around with backgrounds. Those are some ideas and I'm going to share with you a very clear goal. The goal is how can a presenter gauge learning on Zoom? If I'm a teacher and you are students, and you are thinking as a teacher, how can a teacher gauge learning on Zoom in a way that's interactive. That's going to be our very clear goal. Pre-baked ideas, goals. Now we're going to brainstorm, how can Zoom, be a little bit better, a little bit more interactive. I'm so excited for you to actually go and do this activity. What I would love is for you that when you do those activity put it in the project's gallery. If you see other people's projects there responding, build off of their ideas. To me, this could be a really, actually valuable brainstorm. Where you walk away and you have a ton of ideas and strategy is to make Zoom more engaging. Let's do this activity. Let's throw it in that project gallery, and let's respond to other people's projects. 10. Q&A: Now, we're going to switch things up a little bit and take some questions from the audience. Estevan, Gary, and Leonor are asking you if you have any tips for brainstorming alone. A lot of these tips seem to have clouded group settings, but curious about solo printers or other creative folks who are looking to do work on their own and use some of these tactics. I mean, for me, I would really think of a system. For me, individually, I think the way rather than an agenda, I think what is the ritual to get me into creative time? What are the five minutes of things that I do to shake myself up? Sometimes, I even play the same playlist. I try to tell and show myself that it's time to get this creative time. Then in that, I think being really intentional about the goals for brainstorming. For me, if I'm alone in brainstorming, just trying to come up with anything. If you're doing that, part of me has reframed that as journaling. Take away the pressure. I've come up with an idea and just say, "I'm going to journal." I'm just going to journal and just for the sake of journaling. If I end journaling, 30 minutes later and I don't have any ideas, that's okay. I think when you put the pressure of having an idea, I'm going to spend 30 minutes on this. At the end of it, I'm going to have ideas, I'm going to move that along, I think that's where you have to build in systems. That's where you say, ''Great, I'm going to pre-correct, so I'm going to put aside everything that may distract me. I'm going to lock the door, I'm going to tell my roommates I'm in here, and then for 20 minutes, I'm going to just draw, or whatever the equivalent is of have as many ideas as possible. Just try to go free-flowing, try to get that brain really comfortable with it. Cognitively loosen it up where you're just doing things and you're not thinking about things and you're not editing. Then I have a clear point where I start to edit. I think that systems approach still when you're alone, is still really important, or thinking if you expect it pre-corrected. If you sit down to write and you go, "I'm just going to write until my kids interrupt." To a certain limit, there's a way to pre-correct for that, to build in time so you can have that moment. I think about that all the time. Sometimes, I'll be like, "Oh, I set myself up to fail." I had my phone with me, I didn't know what I was doing, I put a lot of pressure on myself. It's an hour later and I just feel worse. I think about that. I also think, is this building my creative confidence in there? Yeah. Next question. Marissa asked, "How much of your project time where you actually spend on brainstorming?" That's such a good question. Because absolutely, I'm painting a very pretty picture that doesn't call into account all the deadlines and things like that. Here's what I do, when I have a really tough deadline, I will think, "What is the most efficient type of brainstorming for me?" Something that I will do personally is I won't do the whole thing, I won't set up my desk but I'll go for a walk, and I'll talk things out in voice memo a lot of times. I'll think, "Great. I'm walking, I'm doing something active, and this is how I speed up my brainstorming." I think if I only have an hour to brainstorm, the question I ask myself is how do I best use that hour? I think, for me, it would be a long walk. If I have more time to brainstorm, if they say you've got whatever amounts to get of that script then I know that I can really stretch that out. But I know that's very different. I guess the question I would ask feverishly is where do you come up with most of your best ideas, and try to really get in tune with where you come up with your best ideas. Then recognize that, great, there's certain places that you do that a bit more. Two, I would really trust the unconscious brain to make some of those connections. I think, by that, I mean, think of something and if possible, give it a night or something. This is for me. Again, maybe it's different for you, but for me, I think when I let an idea sizzle in my brain, something really beautiful happens. I don't know what that looks like for you, but I think being aware about that. A lot of times before I go to sleep, I have a journal next to me and sometimes, I will look at an idea before I go to sleep. I'll be like, "All right, brain, tonight, let's think of something." I think setting myself up in that way, to me, I really trust the unconscious brain to do some of that heavy lifting. We have another question for you, Estevan. Sarah is asking how you can get people to engage with brainstorming, especially online. She sometimes has trouble getting people to submit ideas and get involved creatively. What are some ways to brainstorm in order to create engagement? I think in terms of this class, one of the ways to approach this, and forgive me if you're already doing this, but I think it's been really, whatever you want to call it, human focused or human-centered. In terms of, I would spend some time thinking who is the person that would submit on your idea and how to make it. Brainstorm as if you are them. I wonder what that perspective shift is. If I'm someone and I'm wondering if people can submit to my website, that's one way of brainstorming, and I think that's really wonderful, and you'll probably come up with great ideas. But what happens if you shift that and you go, "Okay, I'm someone who is looking to submit at websites. What are all the different options for me? How do I think about things? How do I choose where to?" I think changing those users are powerful. I think when I get stuck as a writer, I think as an audience member, what would I like to see? I think changing that, it gives me a little bit distance. A distance away from my ideas that I'm not so attached to the scripts that I'm writing, rather, I'd go like, "Honestly, as an audience member, I don't care about their character environment, I just go to the movies to have fun or to feel something. That's it." I almost go back and I go, "Oh, I'm overthinking it." I go, "What's their backstory?" or whatever these very deep screenwriter questions, and I go back and I go, "Okay, great. They just want a satisfying story arc, that's it. I don't need to explain why that person does that," and I move back. I wonder if changing some of that perspective helps in that. Then you do the same things that we're talking about, like the what if questions, the how might we questions. I guess this is a change the user, but the why questions, the problem sheet questions and do that for someone who is actively looking to submit to websites, so you're changing that. 11. Final Thoughts: I think the number one thing I want you to take away from this class is that brainstorming isn't this rigid system. It's this living definition and you decide what brainstorming looks like to you. In fact, what I would encourage you to do is that when you brainstorm with different groups of people, different friends or collaborators or different departments in your company, or whatever that looks like, the brainstorming actually looks different. If we're truly human focused, that group of humans is going to drive what that brainstorming session looks like. There's no best way to brainstorm because it can't be something that is used for everyone. I hope you walk away with a confidence that a good brainstorming session requires doing things a little bit differently and challenging a little bit of the norms. You decide what you value and every group is going to look different. The second thing is systems and human focus. I told you that's what the notes I wanted you to have, systems and human focus. How do you create systems and how do you focus on the fact that it's very real people during the brainstorming? You can use an agenda, you can pre-correct, you can come with prompts and questions. Everything else we discussed in class. Lastly, I think at some point to define the goal. You're only successful if you know what goal you're pursuing. With brainstorming so many times people come in with different things. It's like all of us we're setting our GPS location to different places, and we're all frustrated why we didn't all arrive at the same place. How can you individually set a really clear intention of what that brainstorming looks like? Or as a group say, "This is the goal, this is where we're headed. This is what good brainstorming looks like." I'm so excited to see what you come up with. The last thing is everything I've talked about start with this first step of self-awareness. How do you best brainstorm? When do you come up with ideas? What is valuable brainstorming to you? What are the values that you think a brainstorming session would have? What is the worst possible brainstorming? All of that. Here is the last activity for you because I would love for you to write down in your notes, how do you do your best brainstorming? Like what's a perfect brainstorming session for you? Individually or in groups. What's like the absolute ideal? Again, you can go goofy with this. You can be like it is a $15 cup of coffee. The fanciest coffee in the world, I'm sipping. All of us have this amazing tech, like you could go big with this. I just want to know and understand for me what my ideal brainstorming session is. Because then from there I pull insights and design around that and honestly I want to know for you. How do you do your best brainstorming? What is the perfect ideal? Where do you come up with your ideas? I also would love you write down what's a take away from the class. We want something that you heard about it or thought about it that shifted things a little bit. I would love for you to throw that in the project gallery. I think there's something powerful about sharing these ideas. Because if we know that brainstorming is not just the individual, but it's a collective. I think there's something so powerful and important about reading how other people come up with their ideas and what their ideal brainstorming session is. Some brainstorming is done alone, but most of it is done in groups. The more better that we understand ourselves and our brainstorming process, the better that we understand other people and how they're brainstorming means that we will just come up with more creative ideas. Thank you so much for joining in to this brainstorming class session ballad, the brainstorming ballad. I really appreciate you spending the time, really appreciate you spending the time thinking about thinking. I know it's a big conversation and sometimes my brain hurts thinking about it. But I hope that you walk away with some tangible takeaways, I hope you walk away with more tools in your toolkit, and I hope that you come up with incredible ideas that create a better world. I just encourage you to create whatever you feel that you need to create. Whatever is on your heart, is on there for a reason. The world needs more ideas and more people like everyone down here. Creating things of value and meaning. That's my wish. No pressure. Just go out there and save the world. We'll see you next time.