The brainstorming dynamics of House

The television series *House* houses (hehe) some great lessons for web designers, especially for those working within a team.

I’m an American expat living and working in the Netherlands, so I don’t know if House is hot in other countries or not. But it’s fairly popular here, and at the risk of being *not cool*, I like the show. No, wait: I love it. What’s not to love about Hugh Laurie’s self-sabotaging, über-cynical character and his onslaught of sarcastic commentary and complete disregard for every accepted form of social interaction? Pure pleasure, I say.

What’s that got to do with design? Not a thing. But if you’ve never seen House, watch an episode. Those who’ve seen it will confirm that for a good portion of the show, you’re more or less watching *a group of professionals in a room, brainstorming* about diagnosis and possible treatments of whatever weirdo illness the episode cooks up. Brainstorming purists might disagree, because brainstorming traditionally has only one rule: no judging of ideas during the session. Anything goes. In *House*, ideas noted as very unlikely are ruthlessly discarded.

Next time you watch the show, notice the dynamics of the brainstorming sessions. Personal differences are always lurking under the surface, but team members always keep the focus on the ideas. All ideas are welcome, even though they may be discarded. The pace is quick: we’ve got a deadline, someone’s going to *die* if we don’t come up with the right ideas, and fast. That’s where the immediate discarding of unlikely or impossible ideas comes in. Everyone takes it seriously, even when joking. *Everyone contributes*. Ideas are written on a board; relationships between ideas are examined (sometimes known as idea mapping). Once an idea is chosen, the subordinates are sent to run tests which will prove or disprove that choice.

I tend to agree that ideas shouldn’t be censored during brainstorming sessions. Outlandish ideas often lead to creative solutions to the problem at hand. And as web designers, we’re not brainstorming life or death situations (although some clients tend to think so). So for maxiumum creative associations during a session, I’d say *don’t censor*. But the rest of the House rules apply to web teams:

  • Get the whole team involved. Everyone must contribute.
  • Don’t be afraid to voice your ideas.
  • Think fast. Develop focus and flow.
  • Record the ideas. Have someone write them down. Draw them. Get them up on a wall or something some so team members can see/make any possible connections or relationships. Make it tactile.
  • Get some energy into it. Stand up. Walk around. Move. Gesture. Draw. Look.
  • Got some good ideas? Choose one and try it out. See if it works. You can always come back and revisit the other ideas or come up with new ones.
  • Hurry up, dammit. The client wants it yesterday.

Whatever you do, just don’t go straight from the client meeting into Photoshop. Generate some ideas, and ask your team or friends to help.

And that’s it. Now the next time I watch House, I can say I’m doing research.

3 thoughts on “The brainstorming dynamics of House

  1. Man you should get paid for this hard work,LOL.
    We work the same way in hospitals.Except brainstorming is mostly done in the form of pimping.And patients mostly hear the ideas.But the deadlines are not thsi deadly.And patient load is much bigger.
    I envy House n’ Co.They got it easy!

  2. Excellent analysis of one of my favorite television shows. I hope things are well in the Netherlands!

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