Group Brainstorming September 27, 2005
Overview • Innovation paper questions? • Individual creativity often occurs in the context of a group. • Groups have both advantages and disadvantages for enhancing creativity. • Identify factors that decrease creativity and eliminate them.
Groups as a Source of Creativity • Idea exchange or sharing is an important source of creativity in organizations. • Meetings, cross-functional teams, new product ideas, short term focus groups. • Two heads are better than one. • Ideas generated in a group are better than those generated alone because people can build upon, combine and improve each other’s ideas.
Brainstorming Technique • Idea generation in groups called “brainstorming.” • Specific rules an dramatically increase both the number and creativity of ideas generated (1957). • (1) The best way to come up with good ideas is to come up with many ideas. • (2) Freewheeling is welcomed—don’t be afraid to express any idea that comes to mind. • (3) Do not be critical. • Individuals can think of twice as many ideas in a groups vs. alone.
Are Two Heads Better Than One? • Brainstorming techniques are the most widely used of any technique to improve creativity. • Problem: They do not appear to work! • Face-to-face groups rarely if ever outperform nominal groups in which people generate ideas alone and then combine their ideas into one list.
Face-to-Face vs. Nominal Groups • Face-to-Face Groups: • AVERAGE TOTAL: 20 ideas • Range was 8 to 28 • Nominal Group: (4 individuals added together) • TOTAL: 89 non-redundant ideas • Average individual generated 22.3 ideas.
Perception vs. Reality • People have more positive reactions to face-to-face than nominal groups. • More satisfied with their experience. • Believe that time passed more quickly. • Believe that they generated more ideas and better ideas. • Feel more “creative.” • Question: Does this match your experience?
What Went Wrong? • Class displayed basic pattern found in the research on brainstorming. • Individuals outperform groups on idea generation tasks. • Three common explanations. • Production blocking • Free riding • Evaluation Apprehension
Production Blocking • Bottleneck occurs because everyone in a group cannot speak at the same time. • People forget ideas while waiting for their turn to speak—many ideas are never expressed. • Impossible to generate new ideas while remembering a current idea and waiting to share it.
Free Riding • Compared with working alone, individuals in groups do not feel as accountable for producing ideas, so they exert less effort. • Related Examples: • People shout louder when each group member is wearing a microphone and believe that their personal output can be measured. • Football coaches individually film and evaluate each player.
Evaluation Apprehension • Group members may not express some ideas because they worry what others will think. • People want to be liked, to fit in, to avoid embarrassment. • The most unusual ideas will not be expressed because the speaker risks ridicule.
Criticize vs. Don’t Criticize • Brainstorming instruction “do not criticize” aims to reduce evaluation apprehension. • Groups instructed “DO NOT criticize” • AVERAGE: 25.3 ideas • Range from 21 to 28. • Groups instructed “DO criticize.” • AVERAGE: 15 ideas • Range from 8 to 21.
Problem of Social Comparisons • More recent research suggests an additional problem. • People more often make downward as opposed to upward social comparisons. • “Why am I better?” than a comparison person as opposed to “Why am I worse?” • This type of comparison makes people feel better about themselves. • People compare their performance to the least productive person and limit their effort.
Preliminary Advice for Improving Brainstorming • Reduce production blocking. • Allow each individual to write their own ideas during the group discussion. • Reduce free riding • Tell the group that their input will be evaluated individually. • Catch: People are less creative when they feel “watched.” • Reduce evaluation apprehension • Do not allow criticism. • Or, frame criticism as useful.
Choose the Appropriate Problem • Groups can be more creative than individuals when they work on problems that: • Multiple parts • Problem cannot be solved using only one strategy. • Different sources of knowledge are needed.
Procedural Techniques • Brainwriting: Eliminate verbal interaction and generate ideas via computer. • Individuals can see the ideas generated by others while they are typing their own ideas. • Reduce production blocking because there is no need to wait your turn. • Reduces evaluation apprehension because written format eliminates need for public speech.
Nominal Group Technique • Hybrid of face-to-face and nominal groups. • Idea generation completed in multiple stages. • Stage 1: Write down ideas as individuals. • Stage 2: Ideas are shared and discussed as a group. • Stage 3: Individuals vote anonymously on the most creative ideas.
Turn New Orleans into “Venice.” Build city on the sky. Giant fans on coast. Build floating houses Stackable moveable housing units. Rebuilding bonds like war bonds Allow private sector to rebuild Build on higher ground. Build canal city like Venice. Give financial incentives Drain and rebuild as it was Government sponsored work programs. Creative vs. Practical
Creative decision making process • How did you decide which idea was your most “creative?” Most “practical?” • Do creative ideas have certain distinguishing characteristics? • Can the ideas on the “creative” side by useful in some way? How?
Conclusion • Brainstorming is popular but not necessarily useful. • Be attentive to sources of process loss and eliminate when possible. • On Thursday: More barriers to group creativity.