Alex Osborn described the technique of brainstorming at BBDO in his book “How to Think Up”, released 1942 (the “O” stands for Osborn). However, there had been plenty of evidence in the past 50 years proving the technique has a negative impact. Donald Taylor, Paul Berry and Clifford Block wrote about its benefits in 1958 and raised the following question: Does Group Participation when using Brainstorming facilitate or inhibit Creative Thinking? Their results consolidated and published by Jochen Paulus in the journal “Bild der Wissenschaft” are as below:
The candidates can’t do any better in groups since they hinder each other. Usually they have to wait until anyone else has finished speaking – and this inhibits creativity.
The explanation for this characteristic is given by Wolfgang Stroebe, professor of psychology at the University of Utrecht. (…) He attributes the inhibition to malfunctions of participants’ memory: To get input for new ideas the brain has to reallocate information out of the long-term memory, and it has to keep them present. Both processes suffer from waiting when the conventional brainstorming technique is conducted.
Admittedly, it is significant important for successful ideas to draw on others’ thoughts. The internet lists new methods and tools to generate ideas, named ideation as part of “Collaborative Innovation”
With appropriate software support provided by the worldwide leading suppliers of innovation software we can facilitate two very important features of target-oriented creativity in companies:
- Participants are able to pass their ideas at any time – provided that they have a mobile phone. Ideas typically spring up in moments we do ordinary activities, for instance when having a shower.
- Moreover, participants are able to see what ideas others have. This is essential. Only a few can evolve seminal ideas out of their own mind – ideas are based on each other.
Summarized: do not book any brainstorming workshops to create ideas unless the initiators are professionals in brainstorming. There are enough other opportunities out there. Collaborative innovation based on innovation management software is one of them.
Juergen H. Staeudtner is owner of Cridon, a consultancy and agency for innovation. He has held various positions in management consulting and in line organizations since 1993. He holds a masters degree in mechanical engineering, business administration and fine arts.