GROUP THINK & Multiple Research Confirms Brainstorming Kills Breakthrough Ideas (& What To Do Instead)

by Melissa Schilling, Inc. Magazine, 2/9/18.

… Over a half a century ago, Alex Osborne wrote an influential book called Applied Imagination that opined that “the average person can think up twice as many ideas when working with a group than when working alone.” Managers must have been convinced because brainstorming groups took off in popularity and are still used widely to this day. In fact, in business schools it is almost heretical to argue that teams are not more creative than individuals.

The only problem is that Osborne was wrong. Dozens of laboratory studies tried to confirm Osborne’s claim, but found the opposite: brainstorming groups produced fewer ideas, and ideas of less novelty, than the sum of the ideas created by the same number of individuals working alone…

…three main reasons that groups are less creative than individuals working on their own:

1. Fear of Judgment

A series of studies by Professors Michael Diehl, Wolfgang Stroebe, Bernard Nijstad, Paul Pauhus, and others found that people self-censor many of their most creative ideas in group brainstorming sessions for fear of being judged negatively by others. When the scientists told groups that their ideas would be judged by their peers, they came up with significantly fewer and less novel ideas than groups that were told they would be evaluated by anonymous judges.

As Isaac Asimov, one of the most famous science fiction writers of all time (and also a biochemistry professor at Boston University) put it, “My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required…The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.”

2. Production Blocking

When people take turns to voice their ideas, those bringing up the rear may forget their ideas before having a chance to voice them. Worse still, the process of attending to another person’s ideas redirects a listener’s train of thought, essentially hijacking their own idea generation process. Scientists were able to demonstrate this by separating individuals into rooms where they would speak their ideas into a microphone when lights indicated it was their turn. In some of the rooms the individuals could hear the contributions of others, and in some they could not. This study resulted in big creativity losses: being required to wait to give ideas caused people to submit far fewer ideas, and even fewer ideas if they could hear the contributions of others…

3. Feasibility Trumps Originality

Another series of studies by Professor Eric Rietzschel and colleagues shows that teams aren’t just bad for idea generation; they even impair idea selection. If you let people work alone to generate ideas but then let the group select the best ideas to pursue, they will make decisions that reduce novelty. The studies showed that when groups interactively ranked their “best” ideas, they chose ideas that were less original than the average of the ideas produced, and more feasible than the average of the ideas produced. In other words, people tended to weight “feasible” more highly than “original.” If a brainstorming group is intended to elicit novel ideas, asking groups to select and submit their best ideas is not the way to achieve that outcome.

The Benefits of Spending Time Alone

Solitude is immensely valuable for creativity; it affords a person the time to think and pursue those things they find intrinsically interesting. It can help them to develop their own beliefs about how the world works, and to develop a self-concept that is less structured by the opinions of others.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/melissa-schilling/the-science-of-why-brainstorming-in-groups-doesnt-work.html

INNOVATION & Why Group Brainstorming Is a Waste of Time #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary from Dr. Whitesel: “As this article & accompanying research point out, brainstorming often leads to too many options and too much to do. So, in addition to brainstorming you need an ‘ideas editor’ who will trim down the many ideas to the ones that are best suited to your strengths and goals. A real life case study is how we designed the Wesley Seminary curriculum. Many people and many voices went into designing each seminary course in the hopes of creating a collaborative model. What he did was create an overly complex curriculum which frustrated students with too many assignments going in too many different directions. Thankfully the faculty and Dean assigned to each course a “lead professor” or content editor. Then with student feedback we adjusted the assignments to meet the goals in a more doable and effective manner.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/03/why-group-brainstorming-is-a-waste-of-time

INNOVATION & How To REFOCUS a Ministry That Has Outlived Its Usefulness #ChurchCureBook

CURxE T = Tackle Needs by Refocusing or Creating Ministry Programs.

Article by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from CURE FOR THE COMMON CHURCH: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (2012), pp. 42-56 (download the chapter below):

Cure T stands for “tackle needs by refocusing, creating or ending ministry” and the term “tackle” is fitting for this may require the most energy of the three cures in this chapter. As we saw earlier long histories and good fellowship often cause a church to focus on congregational needs in lieu of non-churchgoer needs. Thus, churchgoers often focus on ministries they enjoy doing even when these programs are no longer meeting the needs of non-churchgoers. As a result, Cure T is absolutely critical for church health. Therefore, be aware that three tactics will be needed:

  • Refocusing: Some of a church’s programs will need to be refocused to better meet the needs of non-churchgoers.
  • Creating: Some programs will need to be created to meet the needs of non-churchgoers.

Refocusing & Creating Ministries: The A-B-C-D Approach

The key to refocusing or creating ministry is to:

  1. Assemble both canvassers and ministry leaders.
  • The goal is to compile a master list of needs and draw connections to existing ministries or create new ministries that could meet those needs.
  • A convener (i.e. chairperson) should be selected. This will usually be a staff person or the leader of the canvassers. She or he will oversee the A-B-C-D steps.
  • Convene both canvassers and church ministry leaders as soon as possible after the canvassing. Some churches will conduct their canvass on Sunday or Saturday morning and then meet that afternoon. This can allow leaders to consider the results while the conversations are fresh in their minds
  1. Brainstorm a master list of needs.
  • When the canvassers convene after their canvass, everyone shares the needs jotted down.
  • From these lists they create a master list of needs (i.e. those that reoccur with the most frequency on the canvassers’ personal lists).
  • Combine similar needs into categories.
  • Column 2 of Figure 2.8 illustrates how a master list of needs might be categorized from the sample in Figure 2.7.
  1. Correlate needs to ministries the church offers or can start.
  • Just as you brainstormed a master list of categories, now it is time to brainstorm a list of ministries you can refocus or launch to meet needs in each category.
  • Put these ministry ideas in Column 3 of Figure 2.8.
  1. Distribute your list of refocused or created ministries (Figure 2.8) to church leaders.
  • Send this list to all department heads and ministry leaders.
  • Ask them to look over your suggestions in the right column of Figure 2.8 and add their own.
  • Ask them to report back in 30 days with their responses of how their ministry can be refocused to better meet community needs.
  • The report will be received by the staff person or convener who oversees the canvass.

To see the Figures and read the rest of the chapter, download the chapter (not for public distribution) by clicking here:  BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 2 HOW OUT

(And, if you enjoyed this chapter, please support the publisher and author by purchasing a copy. Thank you.)