Brainstorming is a creative technique through which group members form solutions to specific problems by spontaneously shouting out ideas, without censoring themselves or criticizing others.
But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and performance worsens as group size increases. Groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which function worse than groups of four.
The one exception is online brainstorming. When properly managed, groups that brainstorm online perform better than individuals – and the larger the group, the better it performs. What we fail to realize is that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude unto itself.
Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming:
- Social loafing. Some individuals sit back and let others do all the work.
- Production blocking. Only one person can talk or produce an idea at a time, so the others are forced to sit passively.
- Evaluation apprehension. Even when group members agree to welcome all ideas, people fear they’ll look stupid in front of their peers.
Let me know your thoughts on brainstorming.