Brainstorm like Tina Fey does improv.

If you know Tina Fey, you probably know the one lesson from her book Bossypants that she’s widely talked about. She explains it in this Google Talk too.

While you’re doing improv, avoid ‘no, but’. Use ‘yes, and’ instead.

The funda is that when you’re building something out of nothing, it helps to accept and add rather than deny and kill it. Watch the first 30 seconds of the above linked video to see this in action.

I think this works exceptionally in brainstorming as well. 

Typically, when we brainstorm, people have the urge to play ‘devil’s advocate’. And this kills potentially good ideas like the BJP government kills my hope.

When this (people playing devil’s advocate in brainstorming sessions, I mean) happened to me in the early days of my career, I’d be hurt. It would make me guarded and not share stuff I’m not entirely sure about. I’ve seen this happen over and over again to many people in group conversations.

Now that I’m older and have a thicker skin, I brainstorm better. I also try to lead brainstorms better. We explore every idea, however bad it seems. We first assume that every idea is a good one and attempt to build on it. In fact, even when we realise it’s not working, we put it away for later, in case its time comes in the future.

This is also how I brainstorm with myself.

So, the next time you’re brainstorming, practice to say, “yes” and add to the idea (however bad it sounds to you initially). Maybe something will come off it and surprise you. Maybe it won’t and you’ll realise it soon enough. 

P.S: This is not to say all ideas are good — of course not. It is simply to say that in a group setting, it’s best not to disregard ideas before they’re completely formed. After all, it’s a brainstorming session, not a paper presentation, press release or a tweet. 😛