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Interactive video lesson plan for: Brainstorming: Is Your Mind Wild Enough to Make a Conceptual Leap? | Bill Burnett

Activity overview:

Bill Burnett explains how to use brainstorming in an actionable way, why crazy ideas are so necessary to break out of thought clusters (which the human mind is wired to get stuck in), and how to ultimately make a conceptual leap forward to your next brilliant idea. Burnett is the co-author of "Designing Your Life" (


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Transcript - Everybody kind of knows the rules of brainstorming. You get four or five people together. By the way you can’t brainstorm with 20 people. Everybody has to be able to see each other. I think of brainstorming like a jazz ensemble. Maybe you can have a trio or a quartet. A quintet maybe. Past that you can’t play jazz. It’s just too complicated, too many people. So we get together and they often, you know, come up with a question and they brainstorm for a while and they go great, that was fantastic. And then there’s all these post-its or all these notes on a whiteboard. And somebody says I’ll take a picture and they take a picture with their cell phone. And then that’s where ideas go to die. Ideas just go to die on cell phones.

Somebody’s got a picture and they all walk away. And then I ask them well what happened? They said well we had a brainstorm. I said well what was the result? They said well we had a lot of ideas. What are you going to do with it? And they haven’t really made it actionable. So here’s the thing. Brainstorming works great for coming up with lots of ideas and very diverse ideas, particularly if you have a really good jazz team that can really play off of each other. But, you know, at the end of a good brainstorm – when we run it at the D School there will be 100-150 post-its on the board. But that’s not the end because you haven’t really done anything. Generating the ideas is relatively simple once you get good at it. Figuring out what you’re going to do with the ideas, putting them into sort of buckets. Often ideas are clustered around certain themes so the first thing we do and the reason we use post-its is then we stop and say okay, the brainstorm is over. Now we’re going to do a little bit of evaluation, a little bit of what we call naming and framing the ideas. We’re going to put them into the cluster – like this cluster is all around one thing, this cluster is all around another thing. These are all wildcards. They don’t cluster at all. We just kind of move the post-its around. And then we try to give them – we try to put the buckets or sub buckets into some kind of a framework and we just give it a name. And the funnier the name the better. These are the crazy grandmother ideas. These are the ideas if ducks could fly or if chickens could fly this is what the ideas would be. Read Full Transcript Here:

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