Brainstorming with Da Vinci: Chapter 34

Flip the Idea

Swap Ideas for an Inspirational Twist

Sometimes a handing off an idea to another artist can turn it into a hit.

Jackson Browne originally penned the beginning of “Take It Easy,” but he had a mental block after the first chorus. A while later, he gave the song to the Glen Frey of the Eagles. Not only did Frey finish the song, but “Take It Easy” became the first single for the Eagles to hit the charts.

In a Rolling Stone article, Jackson Browne recounted the collaboration. “I wrote this song with Glenn Frey,” said the singer-songwriter. “It’s a song that I started, but I didn’t finish it. Even if I had finished it by myself, it wouldn’t be the song that it is and it wouldn’t be the song that we all love.”

Andy Warhol, a leading figure in the Pop Art movement, and Jean-Michael Basquiat, known for his street art and Neo-Expressionist works, had an unlikely friendship that helped define the New York art scene in the 1980s. The two were not only inseparable, but they also collaborated on works of art. First Warhol painted the canvas, then Basquiat would overlay his signature scribbles and imagery.

In a 1988 essay, Keith Haring wrote of the relationship, “For an artist, the most important and delicate relationship he can have with another artist is one in which he is constantly challenged and intimidated.”

Handing off an idea to another artist places an interesting twist on the work of art. Each artist imposes their unique style, creating something more powerful than if they had finished the composition by themself.

This inspirational twist can be applied to brainstorming. People within a brainstorming team tend to adopt the same thought processes, especially if they work together for a while. These different thought processes are OK and can be used as a catalyst to build ideas by swapping ideas between teams. Through the flip the idea, you allow a team the opportunity to contribute based on a different thought process or perspective. The new team will take the idea into territories that the originating team probably wouldn’t have explored.

Flip the Idea Method

I like this method for many reasons. First and foremost, it provides multiple perspectives to build an idea. While people may have different perspectives on the team, over time the team’s thought process will tend to coalesce into a group thought process. This is a reality of group dynamics. This method is meant to use the different thought processes of two teams by swapping ideas between them.

Another benefit I like about this method is it turns an idea from me to we. At times when brainstorming, people can get protective of their ideas (the me). Instead of building the idea, they defend their idea. By handing off the idea between teams, the idea becomes a collective output where many people feel ownership (the we).

This method requires multiple teams to implement. Keep in mind there is an idea architect leading each session. So, if you have two brainstorming teams, there will be two idea architects. The following are the three steps to flip the idea.

Flip the Idea Step One: Set Time to Flip

Prior to the first session, set expectations with each team on how long they will be brainstorming before swapping the idea. Generally, you want to give teams a minimum of one hour to brainstorm.

Flip the Idea Step Two: Crossover Briefing

At the designated time, teams will be briefed on one or two of each team’s ideas. This briefing can be done several ways. One way is to have the idea architect who was leading the session brief the new team. You could also have one or two members of each team brief the other team on their ideas.

Flip the Idea Step Three: Build and Review

The teams will then separate and build the inherited idea for one to two hours. The goal is to flesh out each idea based on where the other team left off by coming up with additional tactics.

The idea architect should stay with the team and not the idea. The reason for this is you do not want the idea architect biasing the new team’s ideas based on previous conversations. This method concludes with teams presenting how they built out the idea.