06 April 2012


Thanks to the fecund mind of Andrea Kuszewski for sharing the link to an evocative discussion about the roots of innovation.  Creativity takes place both in individual isolation and in groups, and it is the latter setting which Daniel Sobol teases apart in Innovation Is About Arguing, Not Brainstorming.  Here's How to Argue Productively.  Collaboration with other minds can be an exciting and productive experience .... or it can actually stifle creativity.  Much depends on the ground rules established for problem solving, and it turns out that brainstorming, founded on all ideas being equal and nothing being judged, has become discredited because it can be derailed by individual free-riding, fear of rejection by the group, or the persistence of a hierarchy within the group which discourages open sharing.

Sobol maintains that creativity is fostered much more effectively by what he calls deliberative discourse .... "arguing" in the sense of Aristotelian rhetoric.  He doesn't advocate a verbal free-for-all.  There are ground rules.

  • No hierarchy.  "It's essential to create a space where everyone can truly contribute .... where ideas can be invented ~ and challenged ~ without fear".
  • Say "No, because".  "Backing up an argument is integral in any deliberative discussion.  And that 'because' should be grounded in real people other than ourselves."
  • Diverse perspectives.  "Deliberative discourse requires a multiplicity of perspectives to shape ideas .... we each bring different ways of looking at the world and solving problems to the table."
  • Focus on a common goal.  "Deliberative discourse is not just arguing for argument's sake.  Argument is productive for us because everyone knows that we're working toward a shared goal .... This enables us to argue and discuss without hurting one another."
  • Keep it fun.  "Our work requires intensity, thoughtfulness, and rigor.  But no matter the nature of the project, we keep it fun.  It's rare for an hour to pass without laughter erupting from a project room.  Deliberative discourse is a form of play, and for play to yield great ideas, we have to take it seriously.  But we don't brainstorm.  We deliberate."

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