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Creativity Comments by Winston J. Brill, Ph.D.

07/02 Creativity Comment

Which Creativity Technique Really Works?

There are many claims for methods to stimulate creativity.  And many people have learned these methods and brought them back to their organizations.  I’ve been trying to determine which method(s) actually does stimulate significant creativity.

I followed three approaches: 1) examining great ideas, and determining which arose through application of a learned creativity method, 2) interviewing individuals who have taken courses in such methods, and 3) speaking to people who teach these methods.

As I mentioned in Creativity Comment 04/01, none of the 350 great ideas I studied arose by someone who used someone’s ideation method.  Also, in many of my talks and workshops, I poll participants and have yet to find a single individual who admits to using someone’s method that led to his or her great idea. 

When I speak to people who have been studious about learning one, or more, creativity techniques, I find that many of these people are enthusiastic about the method’s potential.  Then, when I ask how many great ideas actually arose, in their organization, through these techniques, I mostly get comments like, “I can’t get the organization to support using and training more people in these methods,” or “Our teams resist working with me on applying these techniques.” 

Some groups may embrace a method for a while, but then it goes into disfavor.  If great ideas actually arose by use of the method, wouldn’t you think that it would be in great favor?

Experts in these methods obviously defend their value.  In response to my experience in being unable to find that they lead to great ideas, they say things like, “The organization doesn’t support those who learn the techniques,” or “The facilitators needed more training.”  Sometimes they provide examples when a great idea did arise through their facilitation.  I have a collection of great ideas, claimed by such experts, to have resulted by application of their methods.  However, when I am able to research the actual claim (a later Creativity Comment), I find the method—in most cases—to have had no influence on the great idea.

Therefore, it seems that applying various creativity methods rarely results in great ideas.  Is it that no method is especially effective, or is it that organizations (or teams, or individuals), for some reason, don’t appropriately support these methods?

I’d be interested in your experience with creativity stimulating techniques.  

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