When I was writing my last blog about creativity, it led into thinking about brainstorming, which I also wrote about as an approach, like TA, that is deceptively simple on the surface yet disappointingly ineffective if used without an understanding of the underlying dynamics. This blog is therefore a continuation of what I wrote about ego states and creativity.
The major ground rule for brainstorming is that there be no evaluation. In ego state terms, this means that Parent and Adult ego states are banished from the room. This allows our Child ego state a high degree of freedom of expression, without fear of ridicule or contradiction. Without this rule, Parent is likely to reject ideas that have not already been proved useful in practice. Adult will consider the potential difficulties in implementing the idea and may dismiss it before it is fully developed. More importantly, we will be reluctant to offer an idea if we believe that it will be denounced by our colleagues.
Understanding that we are aiming to release Child ego state during brainstorming gives us scope to increase the effect. Real children need the security of parents at hand in case of trouble. We provide this by having a facilitator who acts as Parent on behalf of the group, by challenging anyone who starts to evaluate or criticise. In other words, the facilitator’s Parent makes sure the children play the game by the rules. They also decide when the game has gone on for long enough, or when the time limit has been reached for the end of the brainstorming session.
Creativity will be increased if several people are involved. It is not only because we stimulate ideas in each other that group brainstorming works better than individual efforts. It is also due to the effect of having several Child ego states active together. Being in the same position makes it easier for each of us to relax. The quality of the ‘protection’ offered by the Parent ego state will also be significant here.
The more Child ego state there is in the room, the deeper each of us feels able to enter that mode. We become young once again in terms of our thinking, getting in touch with the levels of creativity that existed for us when we were small. In this way, our ideas will be even more original, with reduced contamination from previous experiences. This is also why some exponents of brainstorming suggest that creativity increases when ‘naughty’ topics such as sex and swearing are introduced; these tend to recall for us the times when we were young and talked about topics that were supposed to be the province of the grown-ups.
Once we have finished our brainstorming session, we need to move on to the original purpose of problem solving. For this, we fetch back our Parent and Adult ego states and then examine the ideas we have generated. We check to see which are feasible, and which offer most scope for further development. Omitting this stage is another common failing when brainstorming is done; this has led people to assume that the technique produces only impractical ideas. This final step is just as important as the ideas generation, although it may seem less fun.
In the book, I next wrote about Innovation. I had written about my model for this previously, in 1991 when I had presented it at a TA conference in Stamford, CT, so it is covered already in my blogs 7 and 8 in this series about my ideas.
Hay, Julie (1992) Transactional Analysis for Trainers Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill (currently published as 2nd edition, 2009, Hertford: Sherwood Publishing)
© 2018 Julie Hay
Julie is a fan of open access publishing so feel free to reproduce any of these blogs as long as you still attribute it to her.