Review: “Hatch” by McNair Wilson

“The question is not, ‘Do you have an imagination?’,” writes McNair Wilson in his latest book Hatch. “The question is, ‘Do you use your imagination, your natural sense of wonder and curiosity, to make a difference?'”

Wilson, a former Imagineer designing theme parks for Disney, believes everyone is creative. We’ve just learned to stuff our best thinking because we don’t apply the right techniques to draw them out. Most corporate brainstorming, Wilson observes, is anything but. In the rush to a solution, options are selected and refined as they are presented, leaving the best ideas unwittingly buried in the brains of the participants. Everyone leaves the room taking unhatched ideas with them. Aptly named, Hatch outlines the Seven Agreements of Brainstorming, Wilson’s personal recipe for creative brainstorming that he uses with clients around the world:

  1. Start a Fire. The first agreement is to get people talking. Inform the participants as much as possible about the topic to them thinking in advance of the actual brainstorming meeting.
  2. Think Distinctively. Agree that you’ll separate creative thinking from critical thinking. They each have their value and their place. The best thinking comes when they are distinctly discussed.
  3. Yes, and… Participants should agree to build on each other’s ideas, not critique them. The best ideas are those usually built on the foundational offerings of others.
  4. No blocking. Non-participation, whining, or any activity that dampens the spirit of unleashing ideas should be avoided. When others are self-conscious of their contribution, great ideas get suppressed.
  5. More ideas. Every brainstorming session hits a point where exhaustion takes over. The easy path would be to call it a day and work with what you have. Often, however, the very best ideas have yet to emerge. Shifting venues, taking breaks, mixing things up, can reignite creativity and draw them out.
  6. Wild ideas. Most of us immediately dismiss the seemingly impossible. Expressing the unimaginable, embarrassing or impossibly expensive can yield a harvest of great ideas. Derivative ideas can emerge that would never had been considered had you not gone wild.
  7. Critical thinking. Now that the creative ideas are on the table, it’s time to apply a process of intentionally evaluating the best idea. Grouping related ideas, refining the concept, and brainstorming ways to make the final concept even better is part of the critical thinking process.

While these Agreements might seem rather intuitive, few organizations follow them well. They may lack the discipline to make it happen, or the know-how to do so. In Hatch, Wilson, provides the know-how and the techniques that will inspire confidence in even the most timid.

It’s a brilliantly constructed guide to brainstorming from one of the most creatively expressive guys I’ve ever met. You’ll not only learn an effective brainstorming process, you’ll discover how to apply storyboarding and visual learning to enhance your personal creativity as well. Filled with terrific illustrations, cartoons and doodles by the author, Hatch is a must-read book for anyone who wants to unleash the good stuff inside them and others.

How have you seen these agreements at work in the brainstorming sessions you’ve been a part of?

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