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Keynote Review: Jonah Lehrer on Why Brainstorming Doesn't Work
Neuroscience | March 25, 2011

Keynote Review: Jonah Lehrer on Why Brainstorming Doesn't Work

Earlier this week, Jonah Lehrer delivered a keynote to a prestigious advertising crowd in New York, concentrating on the pivotal question of where creativity can be found. Speaking to a packed house of modern day Don Drapers & Peggy Olsons — ad men and women who are finding ways to wield magazine ads and Twitter hashtags to reach consumers — the talk was quintessential Lehrer. He touched on decision-making, the collision of art and science, and some new terrain — the science of creativity — sampled from his upcoming book, Imagine. Lehrer told the group that one of the best things about a moment of insight is that no one needs to tell you you’re having one. A decision just feels right. Sometimes these moments hit during a relaxing shower after a long period of agonizing — though, more often, insight takes hard work, collaboration, and lots of triple espresso shots. Jonah explained how and when to employ each context to get the maximum amount of creativity.

In a controversial section that drew quite a bit of buzz, Jonah took “brainstorming” to task, calling it a nice idea that doesn’t actually work. Research has shown that only truly constructive criticism of ideas and a culture that encourages dissent will result in great ideas that move a company forward. At Pixar, for instance, the engineers and animators begin every day with a “shredding” meeting, where they watch the previous day’s animation and pick it apart to find the flaws — whether or not they had been involved in the creation. At the end of the keynote, an audience member asked Jonah if there were other companies that exemplified this culture of encouraged dissent. The answer surprised some in the audience. Jonah said that some Toyota and Apple practices are good models, but it’s actually best to look to art schools, since disciplines like art, music, and dance are unique examples of techniques that are honed through constant critique and refinement: a process that leads to greater “creativity.”

-As reported by Lavin agent Lyz Keating.


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