The Myth of Brainstorming

Hi all. So, here’s a fly for your ointment. I refer to Informatics U4O1 key skill 1.

I am reading ‘How To Fly a Horse’* by Kevin Ashton, which is a study of creative thinking. He discusses brainstorming, which is taken for granted as a standard tool for generating creative ideas. In short, he says brainstorming is a waste of time.

He says that brainstorming (invented by Alex Osborn in 1939 and published in his book of 1942) has two assumptions:

1. groups produce more ideas than individuals

Researchers in Minnesota** tested this in the 3M company.
Half the subjects worked in groups of four. The other half worked alone.
In every case, the people working independently produced 30% to 40% more ideas than the groups, and the ideas were independently judged to be of higher quality.
Later research found productivity decreased as group sizes increased.
Conclusion: contrary to expectations, group brainstorming actually inhibits creative thinking.

2. no contribution should be criticised

Ashton says that researchers in Indiana got groups to brainstorm ideas for brand names of products.
Half the groups were told to refrain from criticising ideas. The other half were allowed to offer criticism as they went along.
The groups that did not criticise produced more ideas, but all groups produced the same quantity of good ideas, according to independent judges.
Deferring criticism added only bad ideas. Later research confirmed this.

Conclusion: the best way to create solutions is to work alone and evaluate solutions as they occur. Don’t try to create revolutionary ideas with a committee or a team.

It makes one think…




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