kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Brainstorming no more

In classes held in educational institution, we normally ask students to get together, form a group and start discussing on what ideas and solutions to come up with. It is normally called ‘brainstorming session’.

It is also a part of teaching and learning strategy approach to ensure the class is running.

This was supported by an influential book by Alex Osborne, over a half century ago called “Applied Imagination” where he opined that "the average person can think up twice as many ideas when working with a group than when working alone."

But unfortunately scientists found that, they simply don't work.

Though brainstorming groups took off in popularity and are still used widely to this day, most business schools are almost heretical to argue that teams are not more creative than individuals.

Dozens of laboratory studies tried to confirm Osborne's claim, but found the opposite: brainstorming groups produced fewer ideas, and ideas of less novelty, than the sum of the ideas created by the same number of individuals working alone.

It turns out more exciting ideas come from thinking solo.

Studies by Professors Diehl, Pauhus and , and others found that people self-refrain their most creative ideas in group brainstorming sessions for fear of being judged negatively by others.

When a group was told that their ideas would be judged by their peers, they will automatically came up with significantly fewer and less novel ideas than groups that were told they would be evaluated by anonymous judges.

Isaac Asimov (Boston University) put it, "My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required...

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing.

For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display."

Another normal happening observed is when people take turns to voice their ideas; those giving in last may forget their ideas before having a chance to voice them.

Worse still, the process of attending to another person's ideas redirects a listener's train of thought, essentially hijacking their own idea generation process.

Being required to wait to give ideas caused people to submit far fewer ideas, and even fewer ideas if they could hear the contributions of others.

If you let people work alone to generate ideas but then let the group select the best ideas to pursue, they will make decisions that reduce novelty.

It often seen when groups interactively ranked their "best" ideas, they chose ideas that were less original than the average of the ideas produced, and more feasible than the average of the ideas produced.

People tended to weight "feasible" more highly than "original."

If a brainstorming group is intended to elicit novel ideas, asking groups to select and submit their best ideas is not the way to achieve that outcome.

Spending time alone thinking is good for creativity; as it gives a person the time to think and pursue those things they find intrinsically interesting.

It can help them to develop their own beliefs about how the world works, and to develop a self-concept that is less structured by the opinions of others.

Also normally seen is innovators had spent significant time alone, pursuing their own interests.

Many of the innovators were also "autodidacts," vastly preferring to teach themselves subjects rather than being taught in school.

This helped them to become independent thinkers that challenged assumptions.

Even Albert Einstein was most vocal about the need for solitude and individuality in creativity, arguing, "The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling."

When head of departments want employees to come up with breakthroughs, they need to give people some time alone to ponder their craziest of ideas and follow their paths of association into unknown terrain.

They should be urged to come up with ideas freely, without fear of judgment.

They should be encouraged to commit their ideas to paper, and to flesh each of them out before exposing them to others.
Tags: brainstorming

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