Thursday, February 2, 2012

Does Brainstorming Produce the Best Results?

In a book entitled, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” author Susan Cain looks at many forms of group processes from schools to work place configurations and comes out on the side of privacy, freedom from interruption and modest collaboration.

She quotes an organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham, who said “talented and motivated people should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.” In a study of office space for game developers, a switch from warehouse space where everyone could see each other to a cubicle format increased productivity. Steve Wozniak’s autobiography is referenced as a story of the solo spirit although success came because of collaboration with Steve Jobs.

When she takes on brainstorming, a technique I have often used in strategic planning, she reports that people in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work and they instinctively mimic other people’s opinions. Have you witnessed that in groups you work with?
“The larger the group, the worse the performance” is her summary. The exception seems to be electronic brainstorming where large groups outperform individuals. She believes the screen mitigates many problems of group work. Her opinion piece (The Rise of the New Groupthink) appeared in the January 15, 2012 issue of the New York Times.

Myrna Meadows, NRS, International Falls

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