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Are We Brainstorming the Wrong Way?

ARE WE BRAINSTORMING THE WRONG WAY?- WHY GROUP MEETINGS MIGHT NOT BE ALL THEY'RE CRACKED UP TO BE "WITHOUT GREAT SOLITUDE, NO SERIOUS WORK IS POSSIBLE." -PABLO PICASSO In open-plan advertising offices, conference rooms, and design firms everywhere, employees are being encouraged to gather together and reach inside their noggins to pull out the most original and creative ideas for some good old brainstorming sessions. Turns out, decades of psychology research have shown that traditional brainstorming may not be the best way to innovate. On the contrary, collaborating in such ways yields less quality ideas than working in solitude and later meeting to share. HOW THE BRAINSTORM WAS BORN In the late 1940s, an advertising partner by the name of Alex Osborn came up with a fresh concept: Tackle a common objective by having members meet in a group to create an Osborn's book, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving, went on to become an instant bestseller and is used in countless As long as the session is free of criticism, the system should work successfully. unrestricted "storm" of as many ideas as possible, regardless of how ridiculous. organizations today. Unfortunately, the inevitable social forces in human nature prevent his method from being perfect. THE 5 BIGGEST PROBLEMS WITH GROUPTHINK SOCIAL LOAFING When individuals get too comfortable in a group, they may show less of an effort and sit back while responsibility is diffused among more active members. SOCIAL MATCHING In large group settings, such as meetings, members have an instinctive tendency to conform with their peers. Without debate or dissent, people don't question perspectives and come up with less original concepts as a group. PRODUCTION LACK OF FEAR OF CRITICISM BLOCKING ATTENTION OR REJECTION When only one single speaker expresses their idea, it creates "production blocks," where the person speaking inevitably blocks the production of ideas by other participants who may forget or decide that their ideas aren't good enough. If an individual's ideas are perceived to be too unpopular to a group that is evaluating them-often called "evaluation apprehension"-they're The larger the group and the longer the meeting, the less participants will be highly engaged in the discussion. more reluctant to come forward and end up generating less ideas. THE PROOF LESS IDEAS ARE GENERATED Number of Ideas 45 Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas A&M University conducted several experiments to test group brainstorming versus individual ideation What they ultimately 40 found was that even when the same number of 35 people were involved, those who worked by themselves to generate ideas came up with more than the brainstorming groups. 30 25 GROUP 1 GROUP BRAINSTORMERS 20 A group of X participants meets to discuss ideas in real time. 15 10 INDEPENDENT GROUP 2 BRAINSTORMERS The same X number of participants work individually to come up with ideas, and the results are pooled after. Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Time Period AND LESS GOOD IDEAS, AT THAT A separate report by INSEAD and Wharton business schools tested brainstorming in groups against a hybrid of independent and traditional brainstorming and discovered that the latter was more successful. THE CHALLENGE Come up with new product concepts for the student market for a dorm product manufacturer. ****** THE EXPERIMENT GROUP GROUP INDEPENDENT GROUP I BRAINSTORMERS BRAINSTORMERS TOP TOP 38 min 5 min 10 min 28 min 5 min Gather together in a room to generate ideas. Pick the best Solo idea Come back and Pick the best 5 ideas. generation. discuss the ideas 5 ideas. together. THE RESULTS 25% 35% WINNER MORE POINTS MORE POINTS Judged by a panel of Wharton MBA students and regular college students, the hybrid independent brainstorming group received: when it came to when it came to how business value. much people wanted to buy the products. TIPS TO EFFECTIVELY BRAINSTORM There are ways to combine the best of group and independent brainstorming. INDEPENDENTLY PREPARE Allow participants 10 to 15 minutes to think autonomously and to do individual research on the topic of concern before convening to discuss. SET A GOAL Set a goal for how many ideas you would like to generate. Researchers have found that this motivates members to trigger more and better ideas. HAVE MEETING FACILITATORS To prevent issues such as productivity blocking or social loafing, leaders should be used to help guide the process and reinforce ground rules. AVOID CRITICISM There will be those who are apprehensive to share their ideas in a group setting, so try to be open to all contributions and avoid inviting those who are intimidating to the others because they may stifle the flow of ideas. ENCOURAGE COMPETITION Having members debate on a topic not only generates more original ideas, it maintains engagement among members. TRY COLLABORATION APPS Recently, online social networks and collaboration apps have become powerful tools to address a physical gap that exists for remote workers. In addition to the brainstorming process being available to all members, participants can effectively communicate their ideas without the fear of "speaking" up or being ignored. SOURCES: JOHN GASTIL."THE GROUP IN SOCIETY." 2010; THE NEW YORK TIMES. "RISE OF THE NEW GROUPTHINK." 2012; INSEAD AND THE WHARTON SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA. "IDEA GENERATION AND mavenlink THE QUALITY OF THE BEST IDEA." 2009.

Are We Brainstorming the Wrong Way?

shared by ColumnFive on Aug 30
In open-plan advertising offices, conference rooms, and design firms everywhere, employees are being encouraged to gather together and reach inside their noggins to pull out the most original and crea...


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