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The Calm After the (Brain)storm

Ever taken part in a brainstorming session? I enjoy both participating and facilitating, and I strongly believe that it is very important to always throw some ideas on the board, whatever is your role, as it is the best way to share all the feelings and emotions that come up together with the subject of your session.

And, when the time is over and all the notes are on the wall, I always find myself looking on the ground, at the crumpled notes that didn't express "the idea" properly and were therefore abandoned for a better version to be stuck on the wall: soon, other ideas will be dumped – molten in a cluster with other ones, misunderstood because there is no time to explain them in depth, or simply run over by other ones that have been expressed in a more attractive way.

My point here is that it is always very difficult to preserve all the positive energy while going through the subsequent phases of clustering and voting the ideas: the stronger the feeling of achievement that came with the brainstorm, the deeper the disappointment brought by the implicit discharge of the product of intelligent, brilliant and creative minds. Therefore, as a facilitator, I am always willing to experiment new ways to evaluate ideas, and sometimes wonder if it wouldn't be better to postpone the activity to a later time, allowing for a relaxed and thoughtful examination of the ideas.

Thanks to an initiative launched by Dario Taraborelli, I have discovered an interesting tool for asynchronous evaluation of ideas: All Our Ideas enables groups to collect and prioritize ideas, based on the assumption that while comparing many different ideas is difficult and tricky, it is much easier to compare two ideas and decide which one is better. By collecting a large number of relative votes, ideas are then classified according to their chance of being considered better than any other single one. In this way, it is also possible to introduce new ideas while the voting process is going on, without diminishing their chance of being noticed and selected (of course there is a weighting system in place, so as to take also the number votes into account).

Credits

The Calm After the Storm ("La quiete dopo la tempesta") is a poem written in 1829 by Giacomo Leopardi, in which the storm is not used as a metaphore for an exciting outburst of energy, so I recommend reading it because it's a great piece of poetry – but do not expect to find further enlightenment about innovation.

All Our Ideas is a research project led by Matthew Salganik from the Department of Sociology at Princeton University.