Saturday, December 03, 2005

Are boxes friends or enemies?

Some boxes – the ones that become paradigms for how we get work done efficiently – these are good boxes. But even these can become traps to fend off innovation. So we always say “let’s think outside the box.”

But Dr. Peter Suedfeld, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, has completed research that puts people into a box of sorts – a dark room with no outside stimuli. And the people in the experiment exhibited increased creativity. He says “to the extent that a box keeps the outside world away, it may be better to think inside a box.”

That runs counter to the method used so successfully by Doug Hall at his Eureka Ranch. Doug can point to thousands of new products that resulted from Eureka experiences where teams are exposed to novel stimuli that spark new ideas. In large part, his process works because of his brilliant leadership in the sessions … but his use of stimulus exercises in a team setting is more than successful.

At my former promotion agency, we had a sustaining partnership with Doug Hall -- one that led to many successful joint projects. I have participated in many Eureka brainstorming sessions and know his method works. And while you're at it you have fun shooting your cohorts with nurf balls and eating like a king. Really First Class Brainstorming!

It might be interesting to have Suedfeld and Hall in a dark room and then in the think tank at Eureka Ranch to see which method results in more innovation. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

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