Getting Started with Innovation: Jumpstart Your Creativity with Brainstorming

Among the writing community, there’s a saying, “You can’t edit a blank page.” The idea is that no matter how hard you try, if there’s nothing to edit, you can’t do anything, so the most important thing is to write the words and worry about their format, punctuation and spelling later. Get the words on a page, and you can hire someone to fix them or fix them yourself. In the same way, you can’t improve on a non-existent idea or bring it to life. In other words, you have to have an idea before you can move on to the next step – implementation.

Jumpstart Your Creativity with Brainstorming

You don’t have to be with a group to brainstorm. In fact, some studies suggest that brainstorming is more effective when done alone. To get the most out of your single brainstorming session, set aside between 45 minutes and an hour. Anything shorter won’t yield the results you need for creativity. Turn off all your electronic devices and go to a room where you won’t be distracted by beeping, phone ringing, or other sounds that will break your concentration and flow.

Sit down with several sheets of blank paper and several pens or pencils; you might even use different colors. Think about your problem or what you want to accomplish, and write down all of the ideas you come up with. Now is not the time to edit or elaborate; you can do those later. There are different formats you can use; choose a style that works best for you. The first 20 minutes, you’ll most likely have mundane ideas that have been tried before. At about 60 minutes, you’ll be inspirationally spent. When you’re ready, you can go through the ideas and discard the ones that aren’t feasible or won’t work.

Brainstorming for Groups

Group brainstorming sessions should be about the same length of time. The goal and the rules should be explicitly stated: all ideas are welcomed, build on others ideas, no criticizing, and go for quantity. There needs to be a skilled moderator who can keep the group of 8 to 10 people on track, record all the ideas, and enforce the rules. When the session is over, someone who has the power to follow through should choose between ideas, implement them, and keep participants informed about the results. The reason most group brainstorming sessions fail is they don’t have an assigned person who can implement ideas and values the process.

More Creativity Tips

If you’d like more creativity tips, join our Patreon and sign up for our blog notices by email. You can also get more tips from “Disneyland Is Creativity” and the “Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” “Penguinate! Positive Creativity” and “Penguinate! The Disney Company” have activities to help jumpstart your creativity.


Did You Catch the Creativity Secrets in the Countdown?

As part of the countdown for our last Patreon offer for new members, I did a series of photos featuring our penguins and numbers. Each photo had Easter eggs related to creativity in them. Do you know what those Easter Eggs were?

Penguins with the number 10
Penguins with the number 10

Number 10: All of these penguins are sitting on a couch. They’re comfortable. Because they are comfortable, they are ready to create. Getting comfortable is especially important in industrial creativity because being creative is risky, and people who are worried about losing their jobs aren’t going to take risks.

Penguins out of the box cat inside
Penguins out of the box, cat inside

Number 9: Thinking outside the box is great when being creative, but sometimes, what’s left inside the box can be just as surprising. If you’re interested in the learning portion, a number with an exclamation point beside it is a factorial. That means you’re supposed to multiply the number by every number below, i.e. 9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1.

Our penguins welcome a new penguin
Our penguins welcome a new penguin

Number 8: Just like our penguins welcome a new penguin (Did you notice the new penguin? It still needs a name), you need to welcome new ideas. Don’t be afraid of what’s new, embrace it like a stuffed penguin would embrace you.

Penguins in a huddle with the number 7
Penguins in a huddle with the number 7

Number 7: Most creativity results form some sort of collaboration. The Muppets weren’t just Jim Henson; they were also Frank Oz, Caroll Spinney, and a host of other puppeteers. Grab a few collaborators and make beautiful music, art or whatever together.

Penguins with globe and cat
Where should we go next?

Number 6: Travel is a great way to jump start your creativity. You get exposed to new cultures, foods and ideas. Think about them enough, and they can result in new ideas.

Penguins brainstorming creativity
Penguins brainstorming creativity

Number 5: Brainstorming is one of the quickest ways to get a lot of ideas. Be sure to have someone record them. You can even do it by yourself.

Tea Party with the Penguins
Tea Party with the Penguins

Number 4: Being childlike is important to creativity and remaining young. Have a tea party with your stuffed pals and invite friends along. Find a way to play make believe. And if a tea party makes you think of Alice, she’s a great role model because she’s curious. Be curious. (Bonus Easter Egg: Check out the cups and find a surprise that is correlated with greater creativity. Don’t laugh when you see it, or do, actually, laughing might be better.)

Penguin taking a group photo
Penguin taking a group photo

Number 3: These penguins are recording their time together with a photo. You should record your ideas when they occur to you. Always have a pen and paper handy or make a note on your phone. Don’t let the idea get away, record it somehow.

penguins with books
penguins with books

Number 2: Books can be a great way to continue learning or to find inspiration. Books also allow you to exercise your imagination. Read a little every day and change up your genres to keep your creativity function at a higher level.

Penguins number 1
Penguins number 1

Number 1: You’ve got to set aside time for your creativity, and that time needs to be guarded against the intrusions of everything that would distract you. It’s hard to do, but giving yourself an hour to do something creative every day will improve your creativity.

Which Easter eggs did you spot that we missed? Leave a comment and let us know.

Is Brainstorming a Good Thing?

In “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” Kevin Ashton questions the validity of brainstorming for creativity. His main objection stems from the fact that brainstorming doesn’t have a way to turn ideas into reality. For Ashton, having ideas is not being creative; the ideas must be realized in order for creativity to result.

Ashton is not the only creativity author to poke this particular hole in brainstorming. Edward de Bono also believes that brainstorming is inefficient and a bad way to come up with ideas. Having more ideas doesn’t mean having better ideas, and businesses need better ideas.

Another failure of brainstorming is the exclusion of people who are shy. Even with instructions involving no judgement and participating, those who are afraid of failure, making mistakes, public speaking, or being laughed at, may hold their ideas back. Instead, Ashton says the research suggests that people working alone come up with as many ideas as people working together, and the ideas will be better. Groups tend to fixate on one idea as the brainstorming goes on.

Brainstorming was originally used in advertising to come up with ideas. What makes it work is how you use it and what you do when done. Brainstorming sessions have their place in creativity, but it needs someone to guide the ideas from the whiteboard to reality. If you’re using it in a business, the person implementing must have the power to do so.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

The ABCs of Creativity: Goals

Many people think that creativity only involves a free-for-all, throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks, and it can be that. Disney uses “Blue Sky” as its terminology for ideas that have no boundaries. Some organizations call it “Green Field” thinking. A simple brainstorming session can also encompass this type of idealized creativity. One person alone or a group of people coming up with ideas about anything and everything.

But that’s not really how most creativity works. Disney might have blue sky sessions that encompass everything from transportation to theme park attractions and TV series to communication break-throughs, but most of the time these sessions are focused on a goal. The goal may still be overwhelmingly large, like a story for the next great Pixar movie, but it is a goal nonetheless. Jackson Pollock doesn’t sit down to write a novel and end up with a painting, and George R.R. Martin doesn’t sit down to write a novel and end up with clay statue.

For some people, the word goal may be too pointed. There still have to be limitations or a problem that the person is solving before he or she can really engage the creative juices. The goal, or general direction, helps people to focus their creative energy and allows the brain to pick up on the importance of the project or question. Even if no answer is immediately forthcoming, the problem may be solved during an unrelated activity.

If you’re having trouble firing up your creativity, it may be because your too thinly spread. Focus on one thing you want to make better and work on that. One goal I always come back to is “What can we do to make Tomorrowland more about tomorrow?”

If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments section below. You can read some of my ruminations in the upcoming book “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” Until its release, you can pick up “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Becoming More Creative for a Better Life and World.” You can also preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

The ABCs of Creativity: Brainstorming

Creativity comes when people aren’t afraid to make connections or sound dumb. People don’t like to be judged or have their ideas called stupid, even if they sound out there. Brainstorming sessions attempt to put people in a safe place where there is no judgement and they can dream as big as they want to. As an idea generation practice, Brainstorming can provide hundreds to thousands of ideas, depending on how many people participate and how long the session is.

Brainstorming sessions should have between 8 and 12 people. The session should last about 45 minutes to an hour though longer sessions can be advantageous if there are appropriate breaks. All brainstorming sessions have rules. At Disney in their blue-sky sessions, imagineers follow these rules according to “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland”:

  1. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
  2. No talking about why it can’t be done.
  3. Do not stifle ideas with “buts,” “can’ts” and other negative words.
  4. There’s no such thing as a bad idea.

Not everyone agrees that brainstorming is a good idea. Edward de Bono says it’s a waste because so many ideas are discarded and the time to come up with them is wasted thereby. The process is inefficient. However, creativity is inefficient, so the brainstorming session, when the plan begins, should be the most inefficient part of the process.

De Bono also notices that some people try to top others, so the session results in people coming up with the most outlandish ideas. For me, that’s part of the point of brainstorming. Like Disney imagineers, I believe you never know where the best idea is going to come from, and it could come from a connection to an outrageous idea that someone else had.

Others decry the fact that brainstorming sessions have no follow up step. That’s up to the business to create. Recording the ideas and having the team follow up is easier if someone has the authority, time and resources to move forward with new ideas.

If you want to have a lot of ideas to choose from, start with a brainstorming session.

For more ABCs of Creativity, check these links. Grab a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Creating for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

Creativity, Self Help and Stuart Smalley

In his book “Brainstorming: Unleashing Your Creative Self,” Don Hahn says that a lot of creativity books come off sounding like a Stuart Smalley self-help quote: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Maybe that should be expected. Creativity is the highest expression of a person’s humanity.

Creativity is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for self-actualization. Those, who believe in God, also believe that humans are formed in His image to go forth and do math or procreate, which is an act of core creation.

People are at their best when they’re being creative. They flow, they sparkle, they embrace their inner child, they play, and they laugh and find the humor. They love, they forgive, and they ultimately revel in the happiness that creativity reveals in the sore of their own being.

So, while Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” is about becoming your best self, it’s also about becoming more creative. Because your best self is one that is actively participating in making something new. Go out and sing your song, paint a picture, experiment, and write up a storm. You’ll be better for it and so will the rest of the world. Penguinate!

Want to up your creative game? Get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories