When leaders try to drive creativity and innovation in their organizations, they frequently jump into holding group brainstorming sessions. This not only creates huge inefficiencies, but it is also dubious whether group brainstorming is effective.
The Research on Group Brainstorming
In The New Yorker’s January 30, 2012 edition, Jonah Lehrer tackles group brainstorming in, “Groupthink – The Brainstorming Myth.” The problem, as Lehrer states, is that culturally we are biased towards groups. For instance, he cites that science papers by multiple authors or teams of scientists are six times more likely to receive citations.
Even though Alex Osborn launched brainstorming and other ideas in his book, Your Creative Power, in 1948, Keith Sawyer at Washington University summarized for Lehrer the research on brainstorming this way:
Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.
Proven Tweak Gives Better Results
Group brainstorming takes a lot of time for small results. Worse, it does not teach people to solve problems on their own. It subtly says, “You need a group to solve things.” We need to teach employees how to solve creatively. We need to give them the confidence to do this.
In real life, big ideas break down into many small actions. We cannot make all the decisions on these small actions at the enterprise level. We do not want to either.
That means small teams make them. Further down it means lone employees make them. It is at this lowest level where they must deal with the devil’s details.
I have seen too much what Sawyer reports. Have people work alone, pool their ideas and then bring them together. I did this for the first time over fifteen years ago with four team members.
Many thoughts were similar.Still, with each about 20% differed. This fascinated them. They spent time looking at how their lists differed. It ramped up their interest and motivation. It ramped up their participation.
Yes, this is more work on the team leader or project manager. The return is worth it. The team’s buy in is worth it. It says their unique views are important. It becomes hands-on training of creative problem-solving skills. Postpone group brainstorming. You will be glad you did. I was.
- Making Group Brainstorming More Effective And Innovative
- Linking Disruptive Innovations and Disruptive Personalities
- How Work Pressure and Fear Affect Innovation
- Creative Innovation (Pt 4): Spontaneity & Frequency
- Creative Innovation (Pt 5): Employees Running into Each Other
- Creative Innovation (Pt 6): People Mix
- Creative Innovation (Pt 7): Conflict
- Creative Innovation (Pt 8): Guidelines over Rules
- Creative Innovation (Pt 9): Pessimism’s Positivity
- Creative Innovation (Pt 10): Information & Interruptions
- Creative Innovation (Pt 11): Quantification Restricts Creativity
- Creative Innovation (Pt 12): Associative Thinking
- Creative Innovation (Pt 13): Overcoming Biases
- Creative Innovation (Pt 14): Time Alone
- Creative Innovation (Pt 15): Prototypes as Obstacles