Of course, people can use idea generation exercises on their own. In fact, creative people are notorious for adorning “their working environment with sketches, pictures, models, and music, in order to ‘immerse’ themselves into their problem matter,” according to a Delft University study on visual ideation. However, getting people together in one room for a workshop setting focused on ideation training can produce noticeably better results.
Part of the benefit of ideation workshops is bouncing ideas off of other people and building on the ones that work. Mattimore says there is a real value to group thought. Naturally, he prefers the term “team ideation,” which he perceives as less pejorative, probably because it doesn’t have all the apocalyptic and soul destroying connotations of “group think.” “It’s great to use the group to stimulate when you’re stuck – then break off into individual assignments when the time is right,” he says. “Bringing people together when they haven’t had success on their own is a fantastic way to get out of a thinking rut.”
Siegel agrees with this sentiment. “It is this idea of an assembly, where groups become valuable,” he told us. “My brain holds certain information and your brain holds some of the same but also quite a bit of different info. If we network our brains via communication techniques; talking, writing, drawing; we enable much broader and much more complete thought.”
TA: We had this series of exercises that we developed, called “Including Your Own Hey.” It sounds weird, but we did them a lot. They start off with a pulse. [Snaps in time] The first level is, I play a four-note phrase [sings “do-do-do-do”]; Page [McConnell] is on my right, and he imitates it on the piano; Fish [Jon Fishman] does his best to play it on the drums; then Mike [Gordon] does it on the bass. Now everyone goes around the room in a circle and everyone starts one.
BLVR: It’s a copycat listening exercise.
TA: Yeah, and then there were more levels. The next level is, I start a pattern and then Page harmonizes with it. We make a jigsaw-puzzle pattern. Then Mike finds his place in the pattern, and Fish finds his place in it. And we’re all listening to each other. Now, only when you hear that all the other musicians have stopped searching, once you hear they’ve locked in with what you’re playing, you say, “Hey!” So, since we’re still listening so intently to each other, we should all say “Hey” at the same time, but if we don’t—if someone says “Hey” when you’re still searching, they’ve basically just told you, “I’m not listening to you.” So we found, very quickly, that it meant you had to always be listening to three people other than yourself. And the music, we found, improved immensely by not navel-gazing. So now the idea is, I’m not paying any attention to myself at all. I’m just responding to what they’re playing.
Then there were other levels, where you’d leave a hole in a musical phrase, and the other person could only play in that hole. That was called “Including Your Own Hey Hole.” [Laughs] So the bass lands, then the cymbal, then the guitar. [Sings, “Ba-bo-da-bing, ba-bo-da-bing.”]