Effective Brainstorming with Principles of Improvisation Daniel Schwartz Dreiser College Residence Hall Director Stony Brook RA Conference 2013
Table of Contents
1. What is brainstorming and why do we do it? 2. Four General rules of brainstorming. 3. Step I: Develop the personal and interpersonal
disposition to learn improv 4. Step II: Learn and practice four seminal principles of
Improv 5. Step III: Apply these principles to ignite effective
Inspired by Applying Principles of Improvisation to Ignite Leadership ACPA 2013 by: Mark Salisbury & Leah Wescott
What is brainstorming? Why use it?
Merriam Webster Definition:
Brainstorming: A group problem-solving technique that involves the
spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group
The mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem
The Very Very Brief History of Brainstorming
Alex F. Osborn Advertising Executive & Creative Theorist Co Founded BBDO
Pioneer in the field of Creative Problem Solving Was able to develop techniques in the 1930s & 1940s while
working on Madison Ave. Wrote many books on Creative Problem Solving and started
the Creative Education Foundation in 1954. Applied Imagination, 1953, published the original approach to
Convention v. Brainstorming
Conventional Group Problem Solving
Can often be undermined by unhelpful group behavior.
While it is important to start with structure, this can lead a group to develop limited & unimaginative ideas.
Provides an open/ free environment that encourages participation.
Quick ideas are welcome and built upon by others.
Leads to the development of a rich array of creative ideas
Four General Rules of Brainstorming
1. Focus on Quantity: Generate as many ideas or options to a question or challenge. Quantity breeds quantity. The greater number of ideas, the greater the chance of producing a radical and
2. Withhold Criticism: Criticism is a roadblock for brainstorming. All judgment should be suspended so participants feel open to generate
unusual ideas. Instead, focus on extending or adding to ideas.
3. Welcome unusual ideas: Go nuts, no reservations, silly and outrageous ideas You want a long list of ideas
4. Combine and improve ideas: Two good ideas can be combined to make one great idea. 1+1=3
SO HOW DO PRINCIPLES OF IMPROVISATION HELP?
Part I: Develop the personal and interpersonal disposition to learn improv
Learning the principles of improvisation in a way that will allow you to apply them effectively usually starts best by taking a step back. NOT trying to turn anyone into a professional improvisational
You need to adopt the four dispositions in order to learn improv 1. Go all in 2. Love Failure 3. Plug in 4. Get out of your head
Have fun and even a little silly!
1. Introducing the Stars of the Session YOU! i. Go all in SELL IT! COMMIT! GO BIG!
2. No One Celebrates Like Eddie the Eagle i. Love failure
3. Zip, Zap, Zop i. Plug in & Get out of your head
4. Word Fu i. Plug in & Get out of your head
PART I: DEBRIEF QUESTIONS
How can the particular disposition emphasized be applied to improv? How might this disposition apply to effective brainstorming?
Part II: Learn and Practice four seminal principles of improv
1. Yes, and i. Each interaction begins with an offer ii. Accept that offer and build on it
2. Bring a brick not a cathedral i. When building on an offer, bring something that balances what your partner brought ii. Bring a cathedral instead of a brick is another way of killing the collaborative vibe
3. Listen for the offer behind the offer i. Every initial interaction is full of offers words, tone of voice, body language, etc. ii. Paying attention to the offer that is most pressing or most intriguing gives you the chance to respond in
a way that moves the game forward most effectively
4. Zoom in, zoom out i. This principle is about context and building context. Its a way to gather more information so that you
can fully build on someones offer. Its also a good way to think about helping others flesh out an evolving idea.
1. Plan a Party
2. One word story
3. Tour Guide
4. Zoom In/ Zoom Out
PART III: APPLY THESE PRINCIPLES TO IGNITE EFFECTIVE BRAINSTORMING
Where do we go from here? How can these games and skills be applied in
the RA role ?