The Fallacy of Group Brainstorming

Have you ever walked out of a group brainstorming session only to wonder if the time was well spent?

(This is where I imagine you vigorously nodding your head.)

Some research would tend to answer you question with an emphatic, “NO.”

(And here, I imagine you standing to cheer.)

A recent study of more than 800 teams demonstrated that individuals are more likely to generate more original ideas when they don’t interact with others.  According to the Harvard Business Review article, “Why Group Brainstorming is a Waste of Time” author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic the decline in original idea generation among teams can be attributed to:

  • Social Loafing (i.e. “Free Riding.”   Others will generate plenty of ideas).
  • Social Anxiety
  • Production blocking (The number of ideas per person decreases as the size of the group increases).

Not only do we brainstorm as professionals (a lot), but we even coach our youth and volunteers on the art of brainstorming.  I am not asserting that we do away with brainstorming all together, but I do think we can take a closer look at our end goals and whether the end justifies the means.  Simple techniques which can be employed immediately:

  • Silent Brainstorming:  If it is necessary that you conduct an in-person brainstorming session save time for silent independent idea generation before sharing publicly.
  • Ask for the questions:  If you know you are going to be tasked with public brainstorming, ask for those questions in advance from the facilitator.  Most of us do better with a bit of fore-thought.

Read more suggestions at:  “Why Group Brainstorming is a Waste of Time”

This entry was posted in Organizational Strategies, Professional Development and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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