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Talk No. 1


Click Here for the
Open Source Session
Set Up Guide

The Brainstorming Technique was introduced in the late 1940's as a group attack on a single problem. In 1958, Yale University conducted the first empirical test of the technique. Forty eight students were divided into 12 groups and given a series of creative problems. As a control, 48 students were given the same problems to work on alone. The solo students came up with almost twice as many solutions and a panel of judges deemed the feasible and effective. The Brainstorming Technique seemed to make each individual less creative. Now, I’m not suggesting that creative group activities are a waste of time but when we conduct them like this and exclusively, we're ignoring the science, our creative thinking styles and our Group Dynamic Instinct.  



Here’s what a "Brainstorming Session" looks like in Open Source Mode.  First, change the name. Rebranding sheds old expectations. I call them Open Source Sessions and here’s how they work. One: If the goal is to come up with a great idea that helps everyone, then letting everyone in to help is the first great idea. Creativity is a whole brain function. It should be a whole group function too. Don’t limit participation. Invite everyone from the CEO to the Receptionist to the janitor in. Title and position do not determine ability. In fact, sometimes, the less someone knows about your product, company or industry the broader the solutions may be.  For instance, the governor of California appointed me to the Board of Geologists. Did I mention that I’m a Creative Director in Broadcasting. I don't know from rocks! But the wisdom there was that I could ask some really smart people some really dumb questions which prepared them for some really Federal Agencies.



Two, give them access to everything. In writing via email, state the problem that needs to be solved then include links to relevant resources and attach all the research, initial ideas and all the failed solutions to date. The more honest you are about what hasn’t worked the more people will want to come to your rescue. Radio Sales Guru MJ Milton once taught me that the best email subject line is quote “Can you help me?” It awakens the hero in the recipient, “Why yes, I will help you.”   In the email, set a time at least three days away to convene and share the ideas that everyone comes up with. This allows people time to find a favorable time and setting to get into their creative space whether alone or in a group, at home or at work.



Third, gather and share anything. This is where those two rules make the most sense. No bad ideas and make no judgments. List the ideas anonymously Allow people to defend their ideas. Vote for the top three strongest ideas. Pass them to an unidentified group. Placing the burden of choice on an “Other” authority keeps the ego at bay and causes the group to congeal as a single body. Keep the session reasonably open-ended. Time them to end right before lunch for instance so people who want or need to leave can do so guilt-free and people who may be inspired can stick around. Follow the flow of the group, read the room.



While you’re together in an inclusive state, ask the group answer one question: “What skill or talent do I have that I wish more people recognized?”   The answer unveils our bliss. It’s what we wish we were doing more of. And the harder it gets to answer this question, the closer we are to bliss.   Discuss answers then pose the problem for the next Session. But ask them to bear in mind their Bliss Question answer while developing ideas. Approaching a problem from this angle adds a sense responsibility to our creativity because thinking from our bliss point.   The Open Source Session and the Bliss Question are tactics designed to get us beyond fear and exclusivity. But, unless we embed the Open Source Mode into our being, like that Brainstorming Facilitator, we’ll just be repeating the rules and not following them.



So how do we embed the Open Source Mode into our being? What works for me is a kind of Aversion Therapy. I have a set of memories I can go to of moments when I caught myself. behaving or thinking wrong out of fear or ego. And recalling the impact of catching myself alsways puts me into this non-judgmental mindset. For instance, I was volunteering at fundraiser for Promise Ranch here in Colorado which offers Therapeutic Horse Riding for children with disabilities. While directing traffic onto the ranch I noticed a young man, late 20s leaning against the back of a van waiting for the rest of his group to unload. He was dressed in black with sunglasses and his pants tucked into his boots, sunglasses and a guitar slung around his back. I thought, “Get a load of this guy”. The band soundchecked an hour ago so I knew he wasn’t going on stage. Then I saw the group put their arms around the man-in-black who was struggling to walk down the road… as people with cerebral palsy do. I collapsed emotionally—my judgmental mindset crushed by compassion. I got it wrong. This young man probably spent the better part of that afternoon dressing in that outfit to feel part of the scene on a night out with friends to forget about the pain for a while. And there I was…judging him. I got it wrong. But I hold on tight to that crushing moment because it puts me in Open Source Mode.   And it doesn’t matter what we call it, Open Source Mode, Strategic Inclusivity, Anti-Bullying, what matters is that dget into this frame of mind as often as possible and be the person that joins the group that’s helps a man-in-black down a road. Because the truth is that we are all a man-in-black— struggling down a road toward bliss—where we can forget the pain for a little while and maybe even get on stage.   I all done.

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