I was demonstrating several Brainzooming techniques for identifying valuable business analogies during a workshop on creative thinking exercises. Small groups were identifying comparable situations to a situation where individuals were being moved within an organization, quickly forming new groups, and leaving challenges in the wake of the moves. Each group used the "My situation is like" creative thinking exercise to generate multiple analogies.

Some analogies were very specific and creatively rich in possibilities (i.e., a beehive where drones are dying off or a sports all-star team quickly forming and performing). Others were overly general, such as "doing more with less."

There’s an important lesson in this experience about how specific or general you should be with creative thinking exercises.


How Specific Should You Be with Creative Thinking Exercises?

In certain creative thinking exercises, general examples allow people to think more broadly about their own situations in a less encumbered fashion. Often, however, a more general description is only needed to help identify a very specific, analogous example to use as further creative thinking inspiration. Specific, possibilities-rich examples work well with creative thinking exercises such as, "What's it like?"

Using a general situation, such as "doing more with less," makes it too easy for a group to simply focus on their typical day-to-day roles and regurgitate the same things they always do.

With a very specific and markedly different analogy, however, group members begin playing a different role and thinking about their situation in a new way.

The lesson?

Pay attention when you're using creative thinking exercises to prompt a group’s new consideration of its opportunities and challenges. Do you need to view the issue on the table specifically or generally? Decide early and use strategic thinking exercises to guide them accordingly because whichever direction you pick has a major impact on the creative thinking that follows.

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