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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to come up with new and better ideas all day, every day, and even on demand?
Kevin Coyne and Shawn Coyne respond to that question by providing in this volume an abundance of valuable information, insights, caveats, and recommendations that quickly identify the "what" and then focus intensively on the "why" and "how" of what they characterize as "a better approach to breakthrough ideas." Heaven knows there are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of books...
Published on March 16, 2011 by Robert Morris

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46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old ideas in new packaging
As the number of books about idea generation and innovation grows, it becomes more and more difficult to differentiate the books and their messages. Many, at first, paid homage to Alex Osborn and the other people who laid the foundations for business creativity and innovation. Lately, it has become more popular to point out all of the shortcomings of the creative...
Published on March 1, 2011 by Jeffrey Phillips


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46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old ideas in new packaging, March 1, 2011
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
As the number of books about idea generation and innovation grows, it becomes more and more difficult to differentiate the books and their messages. Many, at first, paid homage to Alex Osborn and the other people who laid the foundations for business creativity and innovation. Lately, it has become more popular to point out all of the shortcomings of the creative problem solving approach as described by Osborne, and especially lay all the problems of innovation at the feet of that favorite whipping boy, the ubiquitous brainstorm.

It should come as no surprise to anyone, anywhere, that a frequently used technique like brainstorming is often poorly applied or misused. Even less surprising in today's environment is the discovery that some executives use brainstorming as a means to their own agendas, or that teams don't spend enough time preparing to generate ideas. If these "revelations" are news to you, you've missed quite a bit of the commentary on innovation.

So, what are we to say about "Brainsteering", the new book from Kevin and Shawn Coyne? The subtitle promises "A Better Approach To Breakthrough Ideas". The Coyne brothers present Brainsteering - their title for their approach to idea generation - as if it were wholly new and completely different. But the approach they describe is what most innovation practitioners would recognize as simply good idea generation methodology.

The Coyne brothers, like others who have written about idea generation recently, take great pains to identify all that's wrong with a traditional brainstorm. They recognize that executives may have unstated agendas, and that different power levels in a brainstorm may result in pre-conceived ideas. They point out that some people are more likely to dominate a discussion, while others for various reasons don't voice their ideas, or don't intend to share ideas at all. Further, they point out that many idea generation sessions are poorly planned, and many participants don't understand the goals of the idea generation session they've been invited to. So far this is fairly normal.

The Coyne brothers go further to state that much of Osborn's thinking and methods are incorrect. For example they point to research that shows that people are more creative individually than in a group. The Coyne brothers spend some time "debunking" what they claim are the general brainstorming approaches advocated by the general innovation community, most of which pull from Osborn's methods. However, the paper tiger they build would be unrecognizable to most innovation practitioners and many executives in Fortune 500 firms. While some firms run poorly organized, poorly planned brainstorms that are driven at the whim of the executives or the most boisterous participants, those sessions represent a small minority of the brainstorming sessions that occur every day. Further, there are strong rationales for group ideation, including the fact that most of the very creative people in an organization aren't always in tune with the needs and practical realities of bringing a product to market, and even if one person has a great idea, it takes many people to make an idea a reality as a product or service. The brothers don't comment on these facts, and seem to miss entirely the growing emphasis on "open" innovation, which isn't mentioned as a way to generate and capture ideas. In fact the book doesn't mention several of the emerging trends in innovation and creativity, open innovation being just the most important. In fact the brothers don't define innovation, and don't adequately distinguish between concepts like "incremental" and "disruptive" ideas. Further the brothers ignore other idea generation techniques, such as brainwriting, SCAMPER, analogies and so forth, that downplay the "dominance" issue. It's as if experts in a field didn't pay proper homage to the existing craft, and try to repackage good practice as a new vision.

The "big idea" in Brainsteering is the idea that a session should be effectively scoped and framed with Right Questions (their capitalization, not mine). These Right Questions are meant to ensure the team is focused on an important, relevant goal and the scope is well defined. The brothers go on to demonstrate the use of logic diagrams to show how the scope and planning should be MECE (mutually exclusive completely exhaustive). In other words, explore all the opportunities, especially the ones that aren't being explored by competition.

What's amazing is that the book presents this thinking as if it were new. The brothers don't reference any leading thinkers from the innovation or creativity space, other than to debunk Osborn. If they did any reading in the space, it doesn't show. Individuals like Tim Hurson, who wrote Think Better, or Keith Sawyer who wrote Group Genius, have both covered the points the Coyne brothers make in great detail. Of course Roger von Oech and other writers who focus on creativity have addressed many of these same issues. A quick glance at Slideshare lists hundreds of PowerPoint presentations on good idea generation practice which will look very familiar to what the Coyne Brothers propose. Here's a PowerPoint deck
[...] I placed on Slideshare in 2008, which points out the importance of pre-work, "framing" the idea generation session and excellent facilitation. There's really very little that's new in this book.

The book is eminently readable and should appeal to a wide audience of innovation practitioners and people who are new to innovation. The approach it lays out is a well-proven approach to help individuals or teams generate ideas and gain better ideas. What is unfortunate is that the book doesn't acknowledge the fact that little in the book is new or different. The book basically recaps good idea generation practices as if these practices didn't exist or weren't recognized, and completely fails to acknowledge much of the good work underway in existing innovation firms, and for that matter in many Fortune 500 firms. I suppose that the reason the book ignores much of what is happening in the innovation and creativity space and claims to introduce a completely new and different method is that will distinguish the book from others on the innovation shelves.

So overall a very readable book that claims to present some radically new thinking but in reality documents what most of us in the innovation and creativity space will recognize as best practices for running an idea generation session, which manages to completely ignore several rapidly growing trends in idea generation and management, the most important of which is "open innovation". At the minimum it would have been great for the authors to acknowledge much of what is being done well, every day in many firms where idea generation is concerned, or to have tipped their hats to all of the great work and research that has gone before them, that their work directly or indirectly is based on. I think Think Better
(http://www.amazon.com/Think-Better-Innovators-Productive-Thinking/dp/0071494936/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299012728&sr=8-1) offers a better model for facilitation and Group Genius
(http://www.amazon.com/Group-Genius-Creative-Power-Collaboration/dp/0465071937/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299012764&sr=1-1) is better at group creativity.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to come up with new and better ideas all day, every day, and even on demand?, March 16, 2011
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
Kevin Coyne and Shawn Coyne respond to that question by providing in this volume an abundance of valuable information, insights, caveats, and recommendations that quickly identify the "what" and then focus intensively on the "why" and "how" of what they characterize as "a better approach to breakthrough ideas." Heaven knows there are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of books already in print that make the same claim. My own opinion is that the Coynes' approach is comprehensive, cohesive, and cost-effective...and one of the best I have as yet encountered.

Their approach is research- and results-driven, based on two core principles: (1) "If you ask the right questions, answers and good ideas soon follow" and (2) "The right process for consistently generating breakthrough ideas looks very different from what [most people have] probably been taught." In other words, asking the right questions and following the right process will "steer" the brain to the right answers.

It is worth noting that the material provided is based on revelations generated by more than 200 McKinsey client projects, refined further by other real-world applications of insights and practices. The Coynes come across to me as being diehard pragmatists who are determined to share everything they have learned about establishing and then sustaining a process by which to generate new and better ideas all day, every day, and even on demand.

The exemplary breakthroughs they cite include easily portable personal computers (How to create one that fits into an overhead bin on an airplane?), direct sales of personal computers (How to by-pass costs and complications of the retail channel?), and large-scale "category killer" stores (Can hardware and office supplies be sold the same way Toys R Us sells its merchandise?) The visionary founders and co-founders of the most successful start-ups (e.g. Apple, Google, Facebook) all claim that they knew which questions to ask, how to answer them, and then how to apply effectively what the answers revealed.

The Coynes organize their material within four Parts: First, they explain how to know what the right questions are and how/where to answer them; next, they explain how to maximize what they call "personal ideation skills" such as MECE (see Pages 72-73) and using analysis to identify anomalies; then they explain how to "lead others to great ideas"; and finally, in Chapter 10, they explain how to develop "your own billion-dollar idea." They identify and then discuss four principles that can help to guide and inform the development of a breakthrough idea, whatever its monetary value proves to be.

Along the way, the Coynes explain what differentiates the Brainsteering approach from any others. For example, they note that it "exploits two tendencies that cause most people to miss certain kinds of insights. The first tendency is to be biased toward believing that any well-functioning process doesn't bear questioning...The second tendency is to simplify a complex world through norms and averages. People's lives are complicated. In fact, every element of their lives seems complicated."

I think the Coynes were shrewd when they decided to frame their material within a series of questions that serve two separate but related and especially important purposes: They stimulate, indeed require disciplined thinking by their reader and thus encourage the reader to interact with the material; also, the questions serve as examples of the kinds of questions - and sequences of questions - that must be asked and then answered, not only about how to generate breakthrough ideas but also about a book such as this that claims to offer a better process to do that.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book- wish I'd known this stuff sooner, March 8, 2011
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
Great book. Heard about it on Gabe Wisdom's talk show as I was driving home from work last week, and now that I've read it I wish I'd known this stuff sooner. After wasting way too much time in corporate brainstorming sessions over the past 20 years, I can relate to all the problems they describe, and their new approach makes perfect sense. Also like the fact that they offer so many tips on how to think up new ideas even if I'm working by myself. Two favorite sections are Part I about "asking the right questions" and Part IV about "how to create your own billion-dollar idea". And there's tons of examples -- favorite one was the Harvard swimmer who first invented the dolphin kick and went from freshman squad nobody to Olympic gold medal winner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Storming out. Steering In., October 1, 2011
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
Brainstorming is out! Brainsteering is in! The Coyne brothers make the case that brainstorming is ineffective. One reason is that it's so open-ended and overwhelming in its lack of boundaries that it actually hinders creativity.

Their alternative is to "steer" the ideation process by focusing on important questions. They supply a bunch of them in the appendix to help the reader get started. The questions are broken down into categories, depending on the type of problem to be solved, such as questions to help create a new product or service, or questions to find ways to trim costs. The authors also provide suggestions for helping the readers create their own questions.

It's an entertaining read with an interesting approach to idea creation. Give it a read and you'll be anxious to give brainsteering a shot.

Nick McCormick, Author, Lead Well and Prosper, and Acting Up Brings Everyone Down
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fast read and/or study it, April 14, 2011
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
Seems to be good for either a fast read to get the idea and find help to make it work, OR then study it to become the expert.

Problem: We all need new ideas but Brainstorming sessions are usually worthless:
- wrong people invited
- people attending either quiet or pushy and dominate the session with pet ideas
- ideas pop up randomly in all directions
- as it turns out, there are bad ideas and a lot of time and effort is wasted on them
- there is no structure to build momentum around best ideas
- fails

Promise: By changing to a Brainsteering approach it will be made much more productive.

Brainsteering
Get ready for a different meeting.
- separate into subgroups of three to five people and eliminate idea crushers or put them all into one subgroup:
- no bosses
- no one who talks too much
- no subject matter experts
Give them the right questions which guide them and have them focus on the one question for 45 minutes.

Develop a store of questions
etc.

The idea being to get better ideas through Brainsteering and by teaching others to do so.

There are large lists of questions that appear to be good for guiding the discussions and advice for handling the steering part.

In addition, the unique strength here is the interesting and good advice for using questions to get people to step outside their box and get thinking on new paths (hence 'steering') in the process of 'ideation; a term I find icky.
This book will require some study and practice to get it right, so would be for a specialist in helping organizations to generate new ideas, likely in a consulting role.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brainstorming comes into the 21st century, March 2, 2014
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Points of book were great and useful and I enjoyed the examples throughout book has something for novice to expert.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, April 16, 2012
By 
Eduardo Angel (chicago, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
Full of interesting examples and different perspectives. Could be 50% shorter, but its worth a read or two. There are several ideas that I'll apply from now on.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Candy, March 14, 2011
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
A book showing how to do something needs to have two things: ideas that really work and a style that interests and intrigues. Brainsteering has both of these characteristics. The authors' step-by-step processes are sound and will stimulate a wide range of great ideas. Their writing style is fun to read, exciting at points. Their stories illuminate the concepts and make them sound like something most readers could do. They present good and practical ideas in a way that's easy to absorb. I'm looking forward to trying some of this out.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brainsteering, December 22, 2011
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This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
This is a book that every manager should have in their tool kit. I found it to be a great approach to generating new ideas and problem solving. Asking the right questions is a sound method for producing results and achieving ones goals. Flying in the private jet is not beyond reach.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A different approach to find the next big thing, October 22, 2012
This review is from: Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas (Hardcover)
Brainsteering is the authors unassuming way of advocating a process which focuses on asking the right questions to unlock the creative process and arrive at breakthrough ideas. Brainsteering works by getting folks to walk through ideation techniques. If you need to find great ideas, then the focus should be on asking great questions rather than right answers. There are other books which come close in this concept however they do a good job of highlighting the fact that brainstorming has too many pitfalls when it's time to find the next big thing.
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Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas
Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas by Kevin P. Coyne (Hardcover - March 1, 2011)
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