Ed Glassman
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Beef Up Meetings With Creativity Triggers

Creative thinking in meetings counts; adapt most creativity triggers to regular meetings of your group, use non-evaluative listing and buzz groups at least once in every meeting so everyone looks forward to being creative and solving problems when you get together
Team works on a high-tech project (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Team works on a high-tech project (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Creative thinking in meetings counts. Adapt most creativity triggers to regular meetings of your group. Use non-evaluative listing and buzz groups at least once in every meeting so everyone looks forward to being creative and solving problems when you get together.

Buzz Groups

Use buzz groups as an antidote to the quick fix during meetings. Especially useful when you want many ideas in a meeting without a long discussion.

HERE’S HOW: One person presents a problem. Teams of four to six people turn in their seats to form small ‘buzz groups’ where they sit. Each buzz group quickly chooses a recorder, who non-evaluatively lists ideas on a writing pad for five minutes. The recorder quickly reads them aloud and gives the list to the presenter of the problem for future use. If the problem-presenter merely says, “Thank you” and does not get into a discussion, the total time takes less than fifteen minutes.

One variation: first ask the buzz groups to non-evaluatively list how-to problem statements. Then one or more of these are chosen by the presenter of the problem for the buzz group to use during idea generation.

A TRUE STORY: In one of my workshops, a manager said he wanted to restructure work groups to eliminate the supervisors and have teams of workers led by temporary team leaders. Most people favored it except the local union, who insisted everyone get the same pay raise as the team leaders.

I formed three buzz groups with the 18 people present, and while they listed ideas, the plant manager and I privately agreed that, at most, he might get some trigger-ideas to spark ideas at some later time.

To our delight, the participants generated over 40 ideas, three of which when combined yielded a solution that he thought would also satisfy the union, and because of its incentive orientation, he expected to increase productivity while reducing supervisor costs. The plant manager beamed. “Trust the process,” we concluded


In addition, apply reversal-dereversal in your next regular meeting. HERE’S HOW: For example, ask people to reverse the problem statement “How to stimulate creative thinking during our meetings” and non-evaluatively list ideas on “How to spoil creative thinking during our meetings.”

This list often reflects what you usually do in meetings. Then de-reverse each spoiler. Write “How to” in front of each idea and creatively smooth out each sentence into a sensible “How-to” problem statement.

For example, you could dereverse the spoiler, “Have domineering people present” into “How to stay creative with domineering people present” or into “How to keep people from dominating.”

Reverse “Hold meetings at 4:45 on Friday” into “How to stay creative in a meeting held at 4:45 on Friday” or “How to avoid a meeting called at this time.”

You will soon have many problem statements focusing on specific needs of your work group. Form buzz groups and non-evaluatively list solutions to the problem statements that impact the most. You all know best what spoils creativity during your meetings.


Check the spoilers that occur in your meetings…

• People use quick negative criticism and judge ideas too soon.

• People don’t freely share ideas.

• Highly vocal people dominate.

• Experts or high-ranking superiors overwhelm others.

• People lack training in creativity triggers.

• Leaders don’t tell people that they want creative outcomes.

• People do not stay interested and involved.

• People focus on achieving the mission, not on new ideas.

• People conceal emotions and inhibit spontaneity and humor.

• People use win-lose methods, such as majority rules.

• People select ideas prematurely, the quick fix.

• People do not solve problems in structured ways.

• People don’t know the goals and purposes.

• People use analytical and logical thinking too much.

• The leader chooses ideas through verbal and nonverbal gestures.


Check the behaviors that occur in your meetings

• Use advanced problem-solving creativity triggers to:

– Analyze problems creatively

– Generate ideas abundantly

– Select and combine ideas innovatively

– Create trigger-proposals imaginatively

– Develop workable solutions logically

– Select proposals systematically

• Postpone evaluation and defer judgment of new ideas

• Establish a quota for many different ideas before selection

• When hearing a new idea, state what you like about the idea first

• Use effective team interaction triggers, such as:

– Make decisions by consensus

– Record on flip charts so all can see

– Allow leadership roles to distribute naturally

– Circulate the agenda before and action plans afterwards

– Rotate the chair among members of the team

– Discuss and review work group interactions frequently

– Review and discuss what spoils creative thinking


Check the behaviors you find in your meetings.

1. Do not compete with other people to generate ideas. Support and build on the ideas of others.

(Leaders tend to favor their own ideas. This discourages contributions from other people.)

2. Respond non-evaluatively to new ideas. Create an atmosphere in which people consider all ideas.

(Responding in a non-evaluative way encourages everyone to participate.)

3. Do not permit anyone to be put on the defensive. Find value in all points of view. Start with what you like about what you heard.

(This approach encourages everyone to contribute and help new ideas.)

4. Get people to talk about the positives of an idea before the negatives. Do not kill an idea, just put it aside.

(This approach encourages everyone to contribute and help new ideas.)

5. Keep your energy level high.

(Your interest and alertness helps.)

6. Use every member of your work group. Talk to domineering people privately. Help quiet persons contribute.

(Everyone has unique, valuable ideas and information that contribute to quality outcomes.)

7. Record meetings and ask people with poor behavior to listen to the tape.

(This helps them change their behavior.)

8. Rotate the chair of the meeting.

(Being a follower and a leader leads to commitment and participation.)

9. Do not damage egos or self-esteem.

(This encourages everyone to share and leads to greater levels of participation.)

10. Defer judgment during idea generation and avoid early commitment to an idea.

(The leader has great power to sway members. This does not always result in choosing and developing the best idea.)


And checkout my book:


How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.”


©2016 by Edward Glassman, Ph.D.


His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here AND HERE.

His book: “R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is available.   CLICK here  AND HERE

Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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