How to be Insanely Creative in a Group

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

What is your first reaction when you want to be creative and generate some path breaking ideas?

John Goodman The PR entrepreneur takes a three-hour walk and that’s “when I have my best creative ideas. My head de-clutters and I start thinking clearly.”

Kat Quinzel, Founder of the Cash Cow says “I get my best ideas when I’m making food. I think it’s because I tend to forget about everything else.”

Lisa Kipps-Brown from Glerin Business Resources says “I get my best ideas when mowing the grass with a push mower.”

So What is the one pre requisite that stands out when one wants to be creative?

The Solitude of Mind and Body.

Researchers have found that ideas are more likely to come when you take time off from your hard work. We call it incubation. It often happens when you’re doing something physical, like walking or cooking. (Warning! It only happens if you’ve worked hard and long before you take this time off.)

So does this mean that Creative ideas cannot occur while working in a group?

Is Brainstorming or collaborating together a COLOSSAL waste of time?

Not quite.

Historical and scientific evidence has shown us again and again that some of the best path-breaking inventions have occurred while working in a group.

Take for instance Albert Einstein and his colleagues.

The physicist David Bohm, while researching the lives of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr, noticed that their incredible breakthroughs took place through simple, open and honest conversation. He observed, that Einstein and his colleagues spent years freely corresponding and brainstorming with each other.

During these interactions, they exchanged and dialogued about ideas which later became the foundations of modern physics. They exchanged ideas without trying to change the other’s mind and without bitter argument. They always paid attention to each other’s views and established an extraordinary professional fellowship.

Other scientists of the time, in contrast, wasted their careers bickering over petty nuances of opinion and promoting their own ideas at the expense of others. They mistrusted their colleagues, covered up weaknesses, and were reluctant to openly share their work.

Why were Einstein and his associates able to collaborate so effectively?

Why were they able to share their work openly and honestly with each other, while their contemporaries did not? What was their secret?

Einstein and his associates had discovered and used a set of ancient Greek principles of intragroup communication, which was developed by Socrates, one of the immortal pillars of Greek philosophy.

In ancient Greece, Socrates and his friends spent years freely meeting and conversing with each other, having dialogues that helped shape Western civilization. They exchanged ideas without trying to change the other’s mind and without bitter argument. They felt free to propose whatever was on their mind.

They always paid attention to each other’s views and established an extraordinary fellowship. Socrates and his friends bound themselves by principles of discussion to maintain a sense of collegiality. These principles were known as Koinonia, which means spirit of fellowship”.

Socrates 4 principles on how to share ideas effectively are as follows.

Establish dialogue

In Greek, the word dialogue means a “talking through.” The Greeks believed that the key to establishing dialogue is to exchange ideas without trying to change someone’s mind. This is not the same as discussion, which from its Latin root means to “dash to pieces.” The basic rules of dialogue for the Greeks were: “don’t argue,” “don’t interrupt,” and “listen carefully.”

Remember, we are not trying to win a shouting match or one-upmanship in creative collaboration. Our objective is ensuring that the best ideas come out of the collective minds and unique capabilities of the group. Establishing the “rules of dialogue” helps set up the ground beforehand.

Be Collegial

All participants must regard each another as an equal colleague, even if they have nothing in common. It is important because thought is participative. Any controlling authority, no matter how carefully presented, will tend to inhibit the free play of thought.

If one person is used to having his view prevail because she is the most senior person present, then she must surrender that privilege. If one person is used to being silent because he is more junior, then he must surrender the security of keeping quiet.

Remember, there is no place for roles, hierarchies, and authorities in the free flow world of creativity. Every member of the creative group should participate without inhibitions to create a truly insanely creative group.

Be Unbiased

Unbiased thinking requires that you suspend all assumptions about anybody or anything as the first step. Free thought is blocked if our thoughts and opinions are based on assumptions.

For instance, if you believe certain people are not creative, you’re not likely to give their ideas fair consideration. Check your assumptions about everything and maintain an unbiased view.

Einstein suspended many key assumptions held by other physicists of his time. When someone says, “This is the way it should be!” creative thought becomes stifled. The group’s agreement and discipline of suspending assumptions is key to unblocking the creative imagination as a whole.

Remember A lot of damage can be done by confusing our assumptions with the truth. Asking questions to clarify every assumption made is a critical skill to be mastered. Questions can significantly minimize the risks of making assumptions — but they cannot completely eliminate them unless asked repeatedly.

Be Honest

Say what you think. Socrates and his followers believed Koinonia allowed a group to access a larger pool of common thoughts that could not be accessed individually.

Through Koinonia, a new kind of thinking starts to come into being, based on the development of common thoughts. People are no longer in opposition but are participants in a pool of common ideas that are capable of constant development and change.

Remember, your idea might be the next path-breaking idea in the making. Do not fear ridicule and pressure and express your thoughts freely and honestly. That is the key to be an effective contributor in a group.

Bringing it all together

One word of caution, don’t collaborate for the sake of collaborating. Sometimes all you need is cooperation. As Morten Hansen asserts in his book, Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results asserts:The goal of collaboration is not collaboration, but for better results.” The only reason to collaborate is to add or create value; to achieve things collectively that you cannot achieve individually.

So, the next time you are a part of a creative brainstorming group, try to keep these guidelines in mind.

It worked for Socrates. It will work for all of us

As beautifully told by Socrates.

I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.


· Michael Michalko‘s Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking techniques.

· Orchestrating Collaboration at Work, by Arthur Van Gundy and Linda Naiman

· Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration, by Robert Hargrove

· Organizing Genius, by Warren Bennis

· Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results, by Morten Hansen

About the author-:

Ravi Rajan is a global IT program manager based out of Mumbai, India. He is also an avid blogger, Haiku poetry writer, archaeology enthusiast and history maniac. Connect with Ravi on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.

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Ravi Shankar Rajan

Written by

Technology Manager,Poet,Archaeology Enthusiast,History Maniac.Also a prolific writer on varied topics from AI to Love.

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.