I learned this week that while brainstorming may seem like an easy process – blathering about anything able to find a way out of the wrinkles of our brains – it’s not as simple as it sounds.  


Reese is where creativity runs rampant. Sometimes we have to keep the door shut! Photo by Elly Penning.

The majority of ideas I began each brainstorm session with this week were either safe, familiar or a variation of something that’s already been created. The peak of my frustration was when a labmate suggested we use parrots to inform citizens about the events at local town meetings (yes, that’s how some brainstorms go in the Lab). Suddenly, my application idea to know restaurant wait times didn’t sound very appealing.

I couldn’t help but wonder why I was having such a difficult time thinking of unique ideas to contribute during our group sessions. I know I am more creative than this; why do I feel like I am staring at a brick wall? I felt like I was trapped on one side and desperately needed to get to the other.

During my lunch break, I thought of ways I could crack through this annoying, metaphorical brick wall that was guarding my bank of brilliance on the other side.

I could sledgehammer a hole and crawl through. Or, I could get a chisel and cut out an opening.

As I ate my salad, I continued to elaborate on my thoughts and eventually noticed my mind becoming less restricted by ideas that were “sensible.”

I could find some dynamite, stick it to the wall with a timer and watch it explode. I could get Miley Cyrus to ride through on her wrecking ball! Why not teleport myself to the other side? I could even steal a rhino from the North Carolina Zoo, ride it back to Chapel Hill, make it angry and get it to charge through the wall (and then safely return the rhino, of course).  

By the time I was stabbing at the last piece of lettuce on my plate, my mind was spinning with the most ridiculous ways I could get to the other side of a brick wall. I realized this was the type of thinking I needed to bring to the Lab; the crazy, weird stuff that might not always make a whole lot of sense but has the potential to uncover some pretty neat ideas.  

I began understanding that this sort of approach is how ingenious ideas are discovered and produced. In the Lab, that’s what we are looking for. And somewhere along the line, we stumble upon something totally out-there that just might be worth taking a second look at. 

I must admit, however, days later I’m still devising bizarre ways to break through a brick wall.

I’m going to go ahead and coin this as the Reese Effect.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.