Wilson describes the typical corporate brainstorming session as “playful arguing with snacks on the table,” but reiterates that even the most playful arguing wastes time, be- cause people spend most of the meeting shooting down ideas. The 7 Agreements ensure that its participants do what McNair calls “playing well with others,” which generates hundreds of more effective solutions in a shorter amount of time in turn affecting the bottom line.
“The brainstorming system will work in five minutes (if that’s all you’ve got) or 5 days, 5 weeks or even 5 years to accommodate a larger project or larger group,” he explains. A sought after corporate coach, playwright and cartoonist, McNair cites his time at Disney’s MGM Studios, (now Disney Hollywood Studios) as proof of the system’s effectiveness. “I was in the room when it (MGM) was a blank piece of paper and was there three and a half years later when it opened to the public… Helping to design a few of the pieces as well as things that opened after the park’s opening. Probably one of my favorites, was heading up the idea for a haunted hotel and elevator that crashed 13 stories to the ground… Which was not based on a movie or anything, but was just something we thought of…‘The Tower of Terror’. ” The first half of the book outlines The 7 Agreements. Here he shares the first five.
Agreement No. 1: Start a Fire!
McNair suggests teams of three to eight people. “However, tell everyone in the organiza- tion the topic. Get the word out,” he explains. “If you let everyone know what you’re going to be talking about beforehand, and who’s invited to the meeting, they can in turn share their ideas independently and when the group gets together, it will have the collective creativity, wisdom and ideas from all who have said, ‘hey, what about this or what about that?’ ” Starting a fire also provides participants lead time to arrive at the meeting prepared with ideas.
Agreement No. 2: Think Distinctively
When brainstorming, it’s imperative to distinguish Creative Thinking (idea creations) from Critical Thinking (idea evaluation). “I call it thinking with distinction or separating two eggs,” McNair said. He boils the process down to three words: Think, Say, Write. “Everything you think of while you’re doing Creative Thinking, say it out loud, and
everything you say out loud, write it down.” The goal is to create several hundred ideas.
Agreement No. 3: “Yes, and …”
“Yes, and …” Originates from McNair’s time in improvisational theater and moves the creative process forward. For a fictitious Canadian product launch (more about this in the book), one person may propose a parade down Young Street in Toronto, and the next adds the idea of an army marching with tanks. Then the next person says, “Yes, and… The tanks could be painted with our company colors,” instead of saying, “No, that’s too warlike.” Not saying “Yes, and …” leads to the next agreement.
Agreement No. 4: No Blocking
To block an idea is to say anything other than “Yes, and…” such as “That will never work,” or “That’s too expensive.” McNair recommends a blocking bowl, such as an empty salad bowl, in the middle of the table. Every time someone blocks, he or she pays a dollar or fifty cents into the bowl. Anyone can call blocking.
Agreement No. 5: More Ideas
When everyone feels like they are out of ideas, this is the time to produce even more. The facilitator announces when five minutes are left, and then goes around the table two or three more times, and each person offers one more idea. “What happens then, especially if you’ve been working on this for an hour or several hours, is that you don’t care anymore. You’re all out of trying to figure it out. You’re just going to say something, anything, weird and wacky, and very often things like Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain come when people stop trying to figure it out, rationally.”
For agreements No.6… and 7: You’ll just have to read Hatch!
Each chapter includes actual examples of the “7 Agreements’ in use, whether at Disney
Imagineering or a host of other major organizations and non-profits big and small.
Beyond the Agreements, part two of the book includes planning and implementation tips, such as the role of the facilitator and storyboarding. McNair also writes in-depth about the importance of visual note taking and doodling. “We’re all trying to find a shorter, easier way to make notes in meetings. If we did it in pictures, it would be so much quicker,” he explains. For those who can barely draw a stick figure, McNair’s step-by-step instructions in “McNair’s Fearless Field Guide to Doodling” is accessible and enjoyable and provides many benefits. “Doodling is a shortcut to communicating with yourself and observing the world in different detail,” he explains. “Its practice, has been scientifically proven to increase the retention of information.”
The concepts apply in business and personal relationships. One of its key big ideas, Assume Brilliance, will be explored in the second book. “We have to step away from the word brilliance, and not see it for the usual definition of some kind of intellectual prowess, but just look for what’s special, unique, and good in somebody,” he said. “The Bible tells us that: whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is just…”
These techniques can help anyone connect with what McNair calls ‘soul purpose.’ “I believe that when you find your passion, you discover the real reason why you’re here,” McNair said. “Not what your degree is, not what your skills are, but what you love to do. If you can find your passion, you can find your power and your purpose in life.”
The sky is NOT the limit. “God created us in His image,” he explains. “All of life needs to be a daily continuum on creation… in the way we raise and teach our children, the way we fall in love and the way we give love, and in the way we conduct our business.” For more on McNair and his brilliance (the intellectual prowess kind of brilliance), visit his blog, Tea with McNair, at http://www.TeaWithMcnair.com, where you can download a FREE PDF of the complete opening chapter of HATCH!: “I love the Smell of Felt Pens In the Morning.”
You can hear McNair discuss creativity in his own words, and voice, in an earlier recorded interview found in our archive, here: THINK UP!