The brick example is simple and effective–like a brick. I would expect if you separated the brainstorming team to work independently you would find they would produce more and better quality ideas than if they worked in a team.
Grant, thanks for the comment. This is not the first time I’ve heard this criticism levelled at brainstorming. The study you cite is not available on the internet but I did find a discussion of it here:
The study itself apparently does little more than collectively assess a bunch of prior studies. But without seeing how the prior studies were performed it’s difficult to say if we are comparing apples and oranges. I expect that we are because the book I referenced mentioned brainwriting as an alternative to brainstorming – yet in creative problem solving both brainstorming and brainwriting are individual tools, as are forced connections, challenging assumptions, etc. Brainstorming is a mere subset of CPS – group facilitation takes people who have no creative thinking experience and applies these tools in a time-limited session.
There are positives to be sure associated with individual creativity. And if you had a group of people trained in creative thinking techniques it’s very possible that a preliminary virtual session would produce excellent results, especially in the area of problem finding. Even IDEO takes a lot of time before brainstorming to define the problem in smaller groups and individually.
But the problems with group dynamics you discuss are largely addressed by Myers-Briggs and KAI grouping. For instance, if I want to generate a lot of novel ideas I’ll get a group of xNxPs with KAIs over 96. If I want to generate ideas to improve efficiency, effectiveness, etc I’ll get a group of xSxJs with KAIs below 96. Grouping by MBTI and KAI improve group performance and teamwork, especially when it comes to developing solutions.
[…] in September I posted an example of how to use creative thinking techniques to proliferate ideas. “Forty Uses For A Brick” became one of my most popular articles. I promised to give an example of how to apply these same […]