The Gilligan Effect

Have you ever told your team “OK let’s brainstorm…” and then the free flow of great ideas didn’t exactly flow?  Maybe the environment or timing was not quite right.  Maybe the presence of  executives made it too risky to share freely.  Maybe you just needed a good dose of the Gilligan Effect.

There’s a good chance that even my international friends have heard of the American 60’s sitcom Gilligan’s Island.  I’m proud to say that some of us latchkey kids watched every episode.  More than once.

Little buddy Gilligan was the cornerstone of the show.  It wasn’t called Skipper’s Island or Ginger’s Island.  Gilligan’s bumbling initiated most of the problems and failed rescue attempts the castaways experienced.  But his blissfully positive attitude and constant inability to do anything right endeared him to the audience. 

What you may not remember is that his bumbling was often the catalyst for solutions as well. For example, if the group was brainstorming how to get more food, Gilligan would blurt out a joke like “I don’t know about you but I could use a milkshake right about now.”  Then the Professor would snap his fingers and say “I’ve got it!  We harness the power of the next earthquake to shake the coconuts out of the trees!”

You may have heard that effective brainstorming should always be inclusive to any idea, no matter how “dumb” it seems in your head.  Gilligan’s dumb comments often triggered someone else to come up with a solution.  This is because some people are free thinkers, and some people are good at connecting dots.  If you allow the group to throw out more dots overall, you increase the odds of a solution coming together for a dot-connector.  That’s the Gilligan Effect.

I’m not saying you should invite more lovable, bumbling idiots to your brainstorming sessions, but maybe you can unlock more great ideas from your team by setting a tone for free thinking.  Write every idea down without pre-judging and make sure EVERYONE participates.  Only then can you start connecting the dots.

And maybe… just maybe… if you can build durable housing and scientific instruments out of bamboo and coconuts… you can figure out a way to patch a simple hole in a boat.

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5 Comments on “The Gilligan Effect”

  1. satya Says:

    Nice article. Will try it sometime..

    • John Says:

      Hey That’s a good one. i loved Gilligan. That show was a perfect example of how so many different personalities can work together for a common goal, and be able to habitat in the same location. (office, Island, Family)Thanks for a great story and something i can borrow in my next small group.

  2. Holly Show Says:

    The environments which trigger me are very child friendly.. at one marketing and innovation company in Palo Alto, they really got my juices flowing…. there was color everywhere…. people’s work spaces were creative playgrounds…. tinker toys, trolls on key chains, cartoons posted everywhere, sets from shoots, bikes were hanging from the ceiling and lowered when needed…. all spaces which interaction happened, even the lobby were stimulating and creative… it loosens the tie up, drops the pretense, fear of molding the clay… I also heard of the office place which had legos set out in the lobby, reception area…. while waiting people could build …. shelves were full of the items, some re-built…. really opened the mind and other side of the brain for the next steps…..

    • davidgoad Says:

      Thanks Holly! And I’ve found that most conference rooms are the opposite of “creative envirnoment.”

  3. Deb Clemente Says:

    I agree, ideas are here, great ideas are everywhere. We have to get out of the restraints of our minds to allow the ideas to flow. Brainstorming is not about limiting ideas but allowing ideas to come and to be as one with the source from which all ideas flow.


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