Well done, that’s right – they ‘brainstorm’…
It usually starts with one contestant standing up and exhorting, “Right let’s brainstorm all our ideas – I want some ‘blue-sky’ thinking!” So, out come the flip board and marker pens! It’s a group creativity technique has been around since the 1950s and is done in management meetings and school lessons alike. No one ever seems to question whether it actually works and – get this – it doesn’t…
The concept of brainstorming came up in the 1930s – and it sounded like a good idea. In an era where employees were scared to speak out, it was revolutionary. Popularised in the 1950s, it has become the mainstay for creative thinking and pooling of ideas. Many of us still do it today in schools, colleges and our place of work. Chances are, you’ve also found the experience pretty frustrating.Psychology researchers have conclusively shown since the 1990s that brainstorming produces fewer, poorer quality ideas than working alone. Instead of being a hive of creativity, the ‘brainstorming’ setting normally ends up being dominated by one or two strong personalities – with everyone else fearful of their suggestions being judged harshly.
It has been shown that a far better, and proven, technique is to think up ideas independently and then have everyone’s ideas shared at the end. Voting and ranking the ideas at this stage is far better for gaining a group consensus. So why is it that we persist in doing it?
I suggest one reason is that, simply put, we’re lazy. Standing in front of a whiteboard and asking people to share their ideas is pretty easy. Organising a team to focus on a particular problem and prepare their solutions for group scrutiny is far less of a crowd pleaser.
Come on people, let’s be more inventive with our meeting time…
So, What have you learnt today?
As the world of academia winds down for summer, it seemed an opportune time to reflect and explore some myths about education. So next lesson, we will be looking at the falacy of IQ testing – Remember to bring your folders and switch off your mobile phones…
(Can you tell I’m missing teaching already?)
Does brainstorming work for you? Your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!Follow @realdoctorstu
Diehl, M., & Stroebe, W. (1991). Productivity loss in idea-generating groups: Tracking down the blocking effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61 (3), 392-403 DOI: 10.1037//0022-3518.104.22.1682