Part of the “BookNotes” series – highlights from interesting books I’ve recently read

Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas, by Kevin Coyne and Shawn Coyne

Brainsteering – taking all the creative energy normally associated with brainstorming and steering it in a more productive direction

2 Secrets to Brainsteering:

  1. If you ask the right questions, answers and good ideas will follow
  2. The right process for generating breakthrough ideas looks very different from what you’ve been taught

4 Criteria for the Right Question

  1. Forces you to take a perspective you haven’t taken before
  2. Limits the conceptual space you can explore
  3. Must still provide lots of highly attractive possibilities
  4. Just plain succeeds

5 Patterns of Right Questions

  1. Identifying unsolved customer questions
  2. “De-averaging” users and activities
  3. Exporing unexpected successes
  4. Imagining perfection
  5. Discovering unexpected headroom

Brainsteering Workshop

  • Understand the criteria that will be used to make decisions about the workshop ideas
  • Select the right questions
  • Choose the right people
  • Separate the group into small subgroups
  • Match the question to the subgroup
  • Isolate the idea crushers into one group (the Boss, the Bigmouth, the subject matter Expert)
  • Orient the participants
  • Conduct each ideation session according to a strict formula

How to Consistently Generate Breakthrough Ideas

We all need good ideas. Breakthrough ideas. All day, every day.

When your team is faced with the need to come up with a new initiative or idea or expand and existing one, do you pull them together in front of a whiteboard, whip out the dry erase pens and Post-It Notes©, and announce “It’s time for a brainstorming session”?

No doubt this happens thousands of times every day in offices across the country, but traditional brainstorming methods actually have a poor track record for generating ideas that are useful for the task at hand. Why? Because traditional brainstorming actually violates many of the psychological and sociological principles of how human beings work best in a group setting.

So how do you generate ideas?


Kevin and Shawn Coyne developed the concept in a decade-long process as part of a team at the noted consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Now they are the managing directors of The Coyne Partnership, a consulting group serving senior executives and boards of directors in both the private and public sectors.

In their recently released book “Brainsteering,” the Coynes introduce the brilliantly simple concept of brainsteering as an ideation technique that better reflects the way human beings actually think and work in creative problem-solving situations.

Their book is divided into four sections:

  1. Understanding why – and how – you should ask the Right Questions
  2. Maximizing your personal ideation skills
  3. Learn to lead others in the development of new ideas
  4. Putting it all together by developing your own Billion-Dollar Idea

I’m going to tease you a little by revealing the two secrets of Brainsteering:

If you ask the right questions, answers and good ideas will soon follow

The right process for consistently generating breakthrough ideas looks very different from what you’ve probably been using

Told you it was simple! Now go get a copy of “Brainsteering,” dive into the methods behind those two secrets, and you will soon be on your way to some of the most creative ideas imaginable.