Worship Media Arts

Big Ideas, How-To, and Articles on Worship, Media and the Arts

Brainstorming: The Power of the Worship Design Team

Note: This is an excerpt from Taking Flight with Creativity: Worship Design Teams That Work, the new book on worship design teams from Len Wilson and Jason Moore. While designing worship in a group is no longer a new concept in many circles, figuring out how to make them work is a greater challenge. Our goal is to look at some specific principles that will help your worship design teams function at a high, sustained level.

<p>Where do great ideas come from? The answer is quite simple- brainstorming. Whether working alone, or with a group of other creative teammates, great ideas often start with brainstorms. Like the word itself suggests, brainstorming can be as hard to predict as the weather. Sometimes clouds hover over our creative minds, yet the downpour of refreshing ideas is slow to come.  Other times, we’re deluged with a flood of creativity that can practically drown us.</p>
<p>Brainstorming is a process about which many creative people and teams know too little. Conventional wisdom may suggest just getting a group of people in the same room is enough to generate creativity. Like weather forecasting, though, surface simplicity (such as saying “It’s hot” in the summertime) belies a deeper understanding of multiple forces at work.</p>
<p>With a proper understanding of technique, brainstorming can become a regular part of the worship planning process that is both effective and fun. You won’t even need “Live Doppler Radar” or “Accuweather” forecasts to find your way to creative success!</p>
<p>The first thing to keep in mind is that brainstorming provides a structured environment for creativity. It’s not just a rulebook to be followed, which can inhibit those with a bent toward creative thinking (who tend to not be very fond of rules). The point of this structure, which is casual, is to bring order to the chaos of creativity. This in turn allows ideas to thrive.</p>
<p>Here, then, are some time-tested tips for structuring successful team-based brainstorming.</p>
<p><em>1.	Keep the brainstorming team small</em></p>
<p>As covered in an earlier article, <a href=How Many Cooks in the Kitchen, it is important to keep brainstorming groups at a relatively small size. Studies have shown that the most effective brainstorming groups consist of around 4 to 7 people. Any more than that and it’s hard to narrow down ideas and form consensus. Any less and it’s hard to have enough minds focused to generate good ideas.

2. Even the playing field

The best creative groups find a way to check hierarchical structure, and ego, at the door. No one wants to look bad in the eyes of their superiors, and brainstorming (from an ego standpoint) can be pretty risky. Creativity flows much easier when each member feels the same amount of authority to express and give input on ideas being discussed. The “flatter” the team feels organizationally, the better the brainstorming will be.

It may not be possible to organize staff positions in such a way that everyone is “flat” outside the meeting, but position and supervisory issues should be deemphasized during the brainstorming meeting.

For example, the senior pastor may choose to intentionally charge someone else with managing the meeting, and simply operate as one of the creative voices in the room.

3. Keep the group closed

As stated, brainstorming can be risky business that encourages team members to expose their ideas, and themselves, to both praise and honest criticism. In our experience, the best balm for criticism is trust. A closed team ?Äì the same exact group of people, meeting together regularly ?Äì can build up enough trust and small group intimacy to allow honest critique to thrive without bruising egos too badly.

Once a closed group has learned to brainstorm together, a level of comfort begins to set in that makes the creative process second nature. When this point is reached, each team member will feel that the others in the room “have their back” and can begin to name ideas that would have otherwise remained unspoken inner thoughts.

Groups with creative honesty, if achieved, need to be protected with the utmost care. Adding just one new person to the group can change the dynamics in such a way that it makes brainstorming labored or even impossible.

This may seem like a dramatic statement. Yet one new person brings to the group a lack of understanding of current team dynamics, a lack of a shared team history, and (most importantly) a lack of trust and relationship that exists between all others on the team. The result is a dramatic loss of team intimacy. This makes it hard for not only the “outsider” who will likely feel uncomfortable sharing ideas, but it also makes the more established team members guarded with their ideas. Established members may want to avoid inadvertently offending or “looking stupid” in front of the new member when sharing what may seem to be far-fetched ideas. And anything that slows down the transmission of ideas is a bad thing that leads to missed creative opportunities.

3 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on February 19, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

    What do you think? Leave a message if you have something to say about this article. No registration is required to post a comment, but we will moderate for spam and obscene language, so your comment will be delayed in posting until we clear it.

  2. Gene said,

    Wrote on March 7, 2007 @ 10:44 pm

    Another great article. We’re doing a lot of that. Because of differing schedules, we’re doing it through email instead of face-to-face. Not ideal, but way better than nothing.l

    One thing that’s a little iffy to me:
    “Contrary to perception, good ideas can come from initial reaction to concepts rather than to measured responses formulated over days.”
    Good ideas can come from both, but that makes it sound like they only come from initial responses. That’s one advantage to having the whole process in email…people know they can respond with ideas immediately and later. And given that the pastor is usually still re-writing stuff up to Saturday night, they can still have an impact later 🙂

  3. James Phelps said,

    Wrote on September 11, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    The other day I stumbled accross a simple and cool brainstorming tool and free I might add. It works based on the design of uniting individual factors of your concept into a list and then the utility permutates new combinations supported on the list, that in turn propogates factors you would rarely, if ever think of. After stumbling accross it, I utilise it often, because it does help conceptually nifty and easily. Free Brainstorming Software

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