4 Tips for Generating Ideas

by Russell A. Wheeler, MS on October 17, 2011


How might you avoid this situation? Read below.

Do you ever cringe when someone suggests the group should “brainstorm” for ideas?  The Dilbert cartoon above may depict a brainstorming session you’ve attended.  There’s usually one person (i.e., the boss above) in the group who sets unrealistic parameters and expects results. Some might even be told how to generate ideas like Wally (the guy on the left). Everyone who participates feels it’s a waste of time. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As someone who’s trained in facilitating groups using innovative and critical thinking skills, I have worked with many teams to achieve results using a variety of idea generation techniques.  According to Puccio, Murdock and Mance (2007), there are four simple guidelines to remember:

1)     Defer Judgment – don’t judge anyone’s ideas, including your own

2)     Go for Quantity – generate as many ideas as you can

3)     Make Connections – build your thoughts on the ideas of others

4)     Seek Novelty – allow for unusual and unique ideas to flourish

By using these guidelines, your next idea generation session will go more smoothly. Everyone involved will feel like something was accomplished and their input was valued.  No one wants to sit in a brainstorming session and wonder why nothing is ever achieved.  Do yourself and others a favor, use the guidelines above when you are seeking new ideas from everyone.  You may even find the solution to your problem.

What are your thoughts?

In what areas of your life would you use the four tips for idea generation?  How might the tips be useful?


  • Puccio, G. J., Murdock, M.C., & Mance, M. (2007). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


9-11-2001: We Will Never Forget

by Russell A. Wheeler, MS on September 11, 2011


Never Forget September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001.  We will never forget.  The morning of 9-11 came about like any other morning.  It was just another day.  Nothing special about this Tuesday until the unthinkable happened.  My initial thoughts centered on my then fiancée’s Brooklyn relatives.  Were they all right?  Were they anywhere near the financial district when this national tragedy happened?  All of my thoughts were on those in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania.

Two days later I was scheduled to deliver a workshop on change for ASTD Atlanta.  Having planned this session nearly two months prior, no one including myself could imagine the “change” we all would experience with 9-11.  Our world was certainly not the same.  It certainly was a challenge to deliver this workshop to a group of individuals who experienced the effects of our national tragedy differently.  So explaining to them through the application of innovative and critical thinking tools, we all can manage change better.  Even yours truly, with my experience and knowledge of Creative Problem Solving, found the “change” of 9-11 to be difficult to accept; however, we must go on!

Go on, indeed, our lives must continue.  My wife, Karen, and I were planning to get married on September 23rd, only 12 days after the horrific event.  Living in Atlanta, Georgia, our wedding was scheduled to take place in Canton, Ohio.  Planning a long-distance wedding was challenging enough, but now with the aftermath of 9-11, we knew our wedding would somehow be affected.  Since the airlines had just reestablished partial flight schedules, it was going to be difficult to get a flight let alone to ensure all of our packages would be shipped as well.  In addition, Karen needed to carry-on her wedding gown.  Unfortunately, the airlines were enforcing strict carry-on rules and could not guarantee the safety of the gown.  Therefore, Karen and I needed to drive 16 hours to our wedding in order to make it happen.  Talk about managing change at the last minute!

Despite all of these obstacles, our wedding went off without a hitch.  All of our relatives and friends who sent an RSVP attended.  After our ceremony and before the reception started, Karen and I did a tribute to victims and their families of 9-11.  The song God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood serenaded our guests.  We took up a collection for a fund drive established by Karen’s company, which was matching all money donated 3 to 1.  So our $400 collected turned out to be well over $1,200!  We were so very grateful and blessed to have the response to those in need after 9-11.  Our wedding day will always be remembered in part to our national tragedy.

From darkness comes light; and with every light there is hope.  Hope for a better world, a world where people can live together in harmony.  Are we striving for a “perfect world?”  Yes!  But we have to do whatever we can to get there.  Influencing innovation is the result of delivering workshops or facilitating teams to think differently.  One person, one group, one organization at a time.  The time is now for all creativity and innovation professionals to lead change in every area of their lives.  If we can lead change at our level, imagine what those in positions of power could do.  Without a doubt, September 11, 2001 has forever changed how we live our lives. 

We Will Never Forget!



Simple Innovation: The IKEA Shopping Cart

July 25, 2011

My wife and I visited IKEA recently where I discovered something I never noticed before: the wheels on the shopping cart.  It’s not that I’ve never seen wheels on a shopping cart.  But it was how the wheels were mounted on the cart.  A typical shopping cart has two wheels in the front that swivel […]

Read the full article →

Let’s Rediscover American Innovation

February 28, 2011

A lot has been said about our country’s economic situation over the last couple of years.  There have been many jobs lost and few businesses have dared to invest. Some have labeled these times as the “Great Recession.”  However, there are signs that the economy is turning around. But more is needed to get America […]

Read the full article →