If This Is True, Then I Should Be the King of Brainstorming

I’ve written more than a few posts about some of my embarrassing moments (I have so many to choose from):

The fourth link on the list highlights the research of Leigh Thompson, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and the author of nine books. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Thompson shared research she did with her colleagues that explored whether people could be primed for better brainstorming before the idea generation even starts. She concluded:

Candor led to greater creativity. Thus, we propose a new rule for brainstorming sessions: Tell a self-deprecating story before you start. As uncomfortable as this may seem, especially among colleagues you would typically want to impress, the result will be a broader range of creative ideas, which will surely impress them even more.”

As it turns out, Dan Pink’s latest Pinkcast highlights the work of Professor Thompson:

Here’s a summary of Thompson’s work from her latest research publication:

We explored how impression management influences creative idea generation in the design thinking process. Specifically, we examined the effect of recalling and recounting embarrassing versus prideful stories on creative idea generation. In Experiment 1, people who shared an embarrassing incident were more creative in a subsequent brainstorming task than were people who described a moment of pride. In Experiment 2, we extended this investigation to study brainstorming teams and found that teams of senior managers who revealed an embarrassing incident generated a greater volume and variety of ideas in a subsequent group brainstorming session than did teams that shared a moment of pride.

And if you are really into brainstorming, Dan also provided a link to the list of the seven rules of brainstorming by the iconic design firm IDEO.

So if telling embarrassing stories is a key to successful brainstorming, then I’ve got it made.

Here is a video of one of my embarrassing moments, which I wrote about here:



36 thoughts on “If This Is True, Then I Should Be the King of Brainstorming

  1. I was at my mom’s wake when from out of the blue, my legs decided to give out. (I never had before or since experienced that.) That was during an extremely stressful time in my life, and the ER doctor thought it was related to that. I couldn’t have picked a worse time as I was trying to greet my mom’s friends who were paying their respects. I sat in a pew, drank some water, rested a bit, and tried to stand. No go! My wife decided to call an ambulance. Like you, I don’t go out of my way to draw attention, but I sure failed that night. While I was terribly scared, what was on my mind was, “I can’t miss my mother’s funeral the next day. (I was supposed to be giving one of the eulogies.) The ironic part of the whole experience (taken by ambulance) was that the ER was so crowded that I spent the next four hours sitting in the waiting room. I was pretty shaky the next day, but my legs held up.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your heart condition sounds scary, Jim. Take care of yourself.
    I wonder if people don’t mind suggesting way-out ideas in brainstorming sessions after having shared an embarrassing moment because there’s nothing left to lose. If only proud moments are shared, it might be difficult to risk looking bad.

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  3. I got to give you props, professor! You fought that thing tooth and nail the whole to the floor. Still, it is impossible to watch that and not be immediately concerned for the person. I have to say, all in all it was a fairly graceful exit. In high school, while standing on the second highest riser on stage for a choral concert, I passed out. When I did, I fell backwards with my arms out and cleared four other vocalists off the tier above me. I immediately became recognized by everyone in school after that. Great post, Jim!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Fell from next to the top taking the top row with me. Took the four guys behind me down. No one hurt. And from what I understand, the most memorable part of our performance. I remember overhearing someone say they were disappointed I didn’t do it for our second assembly that morning. But, alas, it appears I am a one trick pony…🐴

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. That’s not embarrassing so much as frightening. I hope the condition is under control now.

    Not sure if I’d have the nerve to share some of my more embarrassing moments. I’d like to keep the illusion going as long as possible and have people think I’m naturally graceful and unflappable. (I guess I just outed myself and the ruse is over.)

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    1. the situation is under control, and I can look back on it now and laugh (and still be embarrassed).

      Now that the ruse is over, it sounds like you’re ready to do some brainstorming! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting theory! Maybe i should try it out, it seems to make sense. Sharing embarrassing moments must help a bit in opening up, and maybe also in relation to thoughts and brainstorming. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Beth! It was a little disconcerting, but it seems under control now. The good thing that came out of this is that If I go to a brainstorming meeting, I am all set to go. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my!! That’s a very classical faint!! Glad you are ok!!! I have fainted at work before and it isn’t fun!! I fainted in a patients room as I helped the paramedics move the patient from the ambulance cot to ER bed. Imagine the patients surprise when I came back 15 minutes later to start the IV !!!! I don’t recall if I had any luck at brainstorming after that but I do remember the patient’s look!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was fun going back and watching the video, because I’ve often wondered what it would be like to faint; now I know. That would be a little concerning if I were a patient in the ER and I was treated by someone who just fainted! I’m sure you are full of great ideas right now because of your sharing the story! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. In hindsight the notion of embarrassing stories being more conducive to generating ideas people are willing to share makes sense. The whole idea of brainstorming is to loosen up and throw out ideas that may be goofy or embarrassing. Telling an embarrassing story kind of breaks the ice while a prideful one may make us want to impress further. That’s my take. I had a hard time thinking of embarrassing moments that were not too personal to share. None of mine are on video. My fading memory which was never all that good is embarrassing in itself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think your take on prideful vs embarrassing is right on. And you can always make up something really embarrassing, it would probably serve the same purpose…


    1. I have all of my classes automatically recorded by the cameras in the classroom. If you listen right at the end, you can hear a student asking if I was OK. There were several people in the room right afterward, but I cut the video off at that part…

      Liked by 1 person

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