Brainstorming: is Brainstorming really effective?
Perhaps you have ever heard or read the following sentence: "Nobody is as intelligent as all of us together". This Japanese saying, very popular nowadays, is frequently used in environments where the creativity it must be combined with group work.
Specifically, it is usually pronounced by the brave person in charge of energizing a session of brainstorming or brainstorming, a very popular work tool both in companies and in educational environments. In brainstorming, the person in charge of energizing these work groups will try to keep all the members of the team motivated for the sake of collective productivity, while at the same time ensuring that none of the ideas of its members is ridiculed.
A collective brain
Many advocates of brainstorming are accustomed to thinking of brainstorming as a kind of collective brain , a prodigy capable of offering the best possible response to any problem thanks to the teachings of each participant. These people think: "Surely, despite all the efforts invested in it, the experience is worth it and we can generate among all the best possible idea ... right?"
The truth is that, although some people embellish the concept of brainstorming ("a source of wisdom generated organically by the common", etc.) it seems that group work does not have to favor creativity. In fact, there are reasons to think that we come up with more ideas when we work alone than when we do it in a group, although we deceptively believe that the method followed in brainstorming enhances our creative side.
Why does this happen? Basically, because our brain is not prepared to work like this .
Brainstorming, or questionable group creativity
The low relative effectiveness of brainstorming seems to be explained by a bottleneck phenomenon, that is, each contribution made by each member of the group "restrains" the rest in their preparation of plans: which means, on the one hand, that people do not stand out for coordinating very well to When thinking together about a solution, and on the other, thinking about a solution while listening to colleagues is expensive in terms of productivity. In a group, the ideas are presented sequentially, which forces us to be constantly readapting our discourse, while a single person is able to shuffle several ideas in an orderly manner, discarding from the beginning those that seem unimportant, and give a clear answer
In addition, it has also been proposed that the anxiety produced by the presence of others, who judge both us and our interventions, can act as a brake on a task that has to be characterized precisely by promoting disinhibition and creativity. The creation of a relaxed environment, one of the premises of the method, is compromised by our propensity to direct attention to aspects of the social that are totally venal or, at least, not related to the work to be treated.
Despite all this, we still think that the group exhibition of ideas enhances our inventiveness and, in general, allows us to reach good solutions. Some psychologists refer to this under the concept of illusion of group effectiveness . This deception can be due to three possibilities. The first is a memory failure in which people attribute to themselves ideas that other participants have contributed (source), which could go well for self-esteem. The second reason is that during group work, each participant has the opportunity to rest while another person speaks, which decreases the probability of being blocked, without this having to suppose a better final result (source). The third component of this illusion could be the fact that, when comparing our performance with the average performance of the group, the most probable thing is that we believe that we feel ourselves at the same level as the rest even if we are struggling a little (in terms of creativity or productivity) and that this generates welfare (source).
Not everything is buts
Of course, all this does not mean that brainstorming can be an interesting option in some cases. The effectiveness of this type of methods is difficult to measure, and the statistical analyzes are blind to the subjective appreciation of the ideas that are born with the brainstorming. It is possible that brainstorming is not the appropriate means to generate many ideas in a group manner, but perhaps it does influence the quality of this.
It is possible, even, that you have a therapeutic effect about the members of a group or who, who knows, even improve the work climate at a certain time by breaking with the routine and promoting mutual knowledge. In this type of questions, as always, you must tell the experience of each one.
A small mental trap
The illusion of group effectiveness is another example of the fact that, within the psychology of organizations, the rationality . The brainstorming, despite not being much more effective than other forms of group work, has in this kind of mental trap a help that makes it reach the organizations to stay.
So you know: if you've ever wondered why several people with different interests, different ways of thinking and different responsibilities can come to appreciate a method such as brainstorming despite its questionable effectiveness, the answer might be that, simply, they love doing it .