Brainstorming is a common way for groups and organizations to try to stimulate innovative and creative ideas.
However, a new study suggests supply managers can save money on posterboard and masking tape: Groupthink may not be the best method to surface unique ideas.
In an upcoming study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology,Texas A&M University researchers show that group brainstorming exercises can lead to fixation on only one idea or possibility.
In fact, the approach may block out other ideas and possibilities, and lead eventually to a conformity of ideas.
Lead researcher Nicholas Kohn explains, “Fixation to other people’s ideas can occur unconsciously and lead to you suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative.”
The researchers used AOL Instant Messenger as their electronic discussion format when conducting the experiments, which included groups of two, three, and four subjects.
This study and other studies have also shown that taking a break (allowing for a mental incubation period in participants) can stem the natural decline in quantity (production deficit) and the variety of ideas, and encourage problem solving. Video games have also shown to be effective in helping spur creativity in people.
The current research suggests that group creativity may be an overestimated method to generate ideas and individual brainstorming exercises (such as written creativity drills) may be more effective.
The researchers noted that if ideas are to be shared in a group setting, members of the group need to be aware of this fixation phenomenon, and take steps to prevent conformity. There are a variety of methods to help deter groupthink behavior.
This will lead to a more vibrant, fresh discussion and a wider range of possible solutions, suggested the researchers.