The Four Colors Of Brainstorming

With three different groups at seminars this fall, their idea of brainstorming was very different, based on their Colors.

The first one was an Orange list of their strengths that was perfectly neat and numbered 1 to 18. WHAT? So I asked how on earth they did this list that would impress every Gold! It turns out that one person took control right off the bat. She told everyone to write down two things on their own paper. Then they went around and added them to the groups’ easel paper list. Clearly this was someone who has learned to discipline herself to jot down any and every idea, option, or solution before pulling the trigger.

A recent Gold group had a typically Orange-looking list where everyone grabbed a marker and wrote at every conceivable angle on the easel paper. It was a (Gold) mess, but an (Orange) thing of beauty. About half way through the exercise one man had enough and I noticed him looking around the room for another sheet of paper. (I hide them for these exact reasons…). Fast forward to their turn of sharing their strength and up on the wall was a beautiful, neat, bullet-points list. How the…what the…?? Ah ha! When I turned it over, the brainstorming “mess” was on the other side and they decided (agreed? were told?) to re-write everything on the opposite side!

Green brainstorming happens everywhere and all the time. Whether it’s six of them in a group, during their alone time, or in the shower – there’s no off switch – ever. They’re wired to think before opening their mouth. That’s the reason most Green list of strengths typically has half a dozen things (tops) written down. In the 10 or 15 minutes of the exercise they’ve discussed a lot of stuff. It wasn’t all “paper worthy.” What they’ll write down are typically things they have agreed on and can justify, defend and explain.

Blues are very sensitive to the group dynamics. In the Colors seminar they’re sitting with other Blues and typically talk more freely. In an office brainstorming session, they will contribute, but the first time someone responds with “that’s not a good idea” or “that’s not going to work” they are more likely to simply shut down. In the seminar group, they have a lot of things on their strengths list. Typically it’s a bunch of them each grabbing a marker. But even then, they generally ask others for feedback before writing THEIR strengths on paper. No, not everyone will agree on everything – but if there’s pushback, they won’t write it. But there will be a bunch of things on the list that they may disagree with – but everyone deserves to be heard and included. If it’s a Gold-type list that’s bullet points or numbers, it’s almost always a Blue/Gold that has been asked to “write” the list for the group. That way everyone can brainstorm and share ideas while one person can write (and decide whether to include it or not???)