A lesson in groupthink

26 May 2010
Sarah Campbell blog picWho doesn’t love a brainstorming session? The flipcharts, the marker pens, the arguments, the ideas: it feels good to get the creative juices flowing. But it turns out that your traditional brainstorm isn’t the best way to come up with great ideas. The most efficient method, according to researchers at Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania, is to give people time for some good old-fashioned thinking on their own before coming together to discuss as a group. The researchers, Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, asked groups of students to come up with product ideas for a sports manufacturer and a home appliances manufacturer. One group was told to work collectively (the “team” method); the other was given time on their own to think up some ideas to bring to the group (the “hybrid” method). The researchers rated the quality of the output of the groups, and concluded that not only did the hybrid group produce more ideas, but they were better. OK, it’s not all that surprising that meetings have a better outcome if the participants have had time to prepare. But there are other bits and bobs you might find interesting in the research: for example, imposing a structure on idea generation, such as telling group members they have to come up with 10 ideas by Wednesday, forces them to be more innovative. By doing this you also bring out the thoughts of people who might take a back seat in a group setting. Efficiency is the buzzword of the moment. Why not take a look at the research and see if you can streamline your idea generation process?
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