By Robert Gold, JD, Executive Director, Feynman School

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Learning and the Brain Conference in Boston. A particularly enlightening session by Anthony J. McCaffrey, Ph.D. was “The Science of Innovation: Overcoming Obstacles to Creativity in Your Classroom.” The presenter has both taught in academic settings and consulted for private-sector corporations in the areas of invention and creative problem solving. He shared a compelling and practical group problem-solving technique he calls Brainswarming.

Research studies have shown for decades that what we commonly think of as Brainstorming is not effective. Intuitively we know this. “Team” brainstorming sessions are typically dominated by those in power, or merely by those with the loudest voice in the room. Divergent thinking is limited, and few truly creative ideas may come to light.

In Brainswarming, creative idea generation is largely done by individuals before convening as a group. Each individual starts with a sheet of paper. At the top, the Goal is defined. At the bottom, the Available Resources are set forth. During the Brainswarming process, the top and bottom ends eventually meet, and the sheet becomes visually similar to a depiction of connecting neurons. This does not occur by “magic” or without thinking. Instead, the creative problem solver accomplishes this by considering oft-ignored aspects of the goal and resources. The analysis is aided by examining each resource, one at a time, looking at each through as many lenses as possible. Only after potential solutions have been generated in this way, does the team get together to evaluate these potential solutions. Dr. McCaffrey demonstrated how to apply the Brainswarming process to a sample real-life situation.

Brainswarming can potentially help all of our students, across grade levels, in their real-world problem-solving success.