January 24th, 2020

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.

Empathy for employees please

Empathy is a fantastic quality but it can prove dangerous when taken too far.

It has been reported that one in three workers in a working organization would prefer a greener pasture if employees does not emphasize empathy skills.

For people of supporting role, it boils down to how well we listen and connect to our fellow employees.

The better we do our jobs, the more equipped our coworkers are to do theirs.

Empathy is self-learned, not from an employee handbook, nor from management.

Employee, who understands their coworkers, will ultimately reap the rewards.

Empathy represents the ability to understand someone else’s thoughts and feelings.

Compassion comes into place too. It takes listening to your coworkers and taking their concerns into consideration.

According to Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor report, empathy has a direct impact on employee productivity, loyalty, and engagement. Here are some particularly striking data points from the report:

77% of workers would be willing to work more hours for a more empathetic workplace; meanwhile, 60% would actually accept a slashed salary for the same.

92% of HR professionals note that a compassionate workplace is a major factor for employee retention.

80% of millennial noted that they would leave their current job if their office became less empathetic. 66% of Baby Boomers also shared this sentiment.

Being empathetic in the workplace provides meaningful, concrete returns.

Good connection with coworkers helps sustain thriving working organization that’s built for the long term.

The ability to put you in another person’s shoes, to see and feel from another person’s perspective is a sign of a powerful empathy.

It also an essential component of emotional intelligence, one that fuels the connection between you and others.

Empathy can also prove dangerous if taken too far though it can vastly improve the quality of your relationships.

For individuals demonstrating an abnormal degree of empathy; however, they often lack the ability to regulate that empathy and it leads to unhealthy habits and relationships.

The Pew Research Center analyzed a series of studies and found that in certain cases, the use of social media led to higher levels of stress.

Essentially, users become more aware of the struggles of persons in their network.

The rise in digital technology allows individuals to learn about these things much more quickly, and in closer succession to one another.

If you aren’t careful, constant exposure to the problems of others could lead to higher stress, emotional exhaustion, and a host of other health issues.

Clearly, as useful as empathy can be to relationship-building, it’s clearly harmful in certain contexts.

We do need to find the proper balance in having empathy.

If your job requires you to remain “on” for long periods of time, it’s easy to reach emotional exhaustion.

To avoid that outcome, you may decide to take shorter but more frequent breaks to allow yourself to recharge.

If you have a horrible day at work and your spouse having it too; there’s no way feel in no shape to offer comfort or empathy; in fact, you’re craving it yourself.

You may have to say something like: “I think we both had tough day; can we just take some time to relax or we can go for a walk and talk about it all.”

This type of response clearly states your own needs while kindly addressing the needs of your partner.

Simple, short comforting words can greatly affect how the next few hours, or even days, play out.

You might also spend less time on social media. Ask yourself whether drains you emotionally?

Set an alarm and plan something for when your time is up so that you’re motivated to shut it off.

Remember that empathy can help you build stronger relationships with others but only if you’re not burning yourself out in the process.

If you understand your own emotions and needs first, and take action to support those needs, you’ll be in a much better position to help others.