- 1st June
- 24th October
Brainstorming is a popular method of generating new and creative ideas. Osborn (1957) is credited with developing the idea (of brainstorming) and creating four brainstorming rules. These rules were designed with the purpose of creating non-evaluative context that fosters the process of idea generation. They are:
- Criticism is ruled out.
- Freewheeling is welcome.
- Quantity is wanted.
- Combination and improvement are sought.
Additionally, Osborn suggested an advantage for group brainstorming. According to him, ideas from an individual would spawn associations (or associated ideas) not only in the mind of the generator of the idea, but also in the minds of the group members. He termed this process chain reaction. Osborn believed that individuals can prime one another with the ideas presented to the group because hearing the ideas of other group members may activate and make more accessible some ideas that may have not been generated if it weren’t for an external cue. Moreover, the degree of influence that brainstormers have on one another is dependent on the degree of attention to one another’s ideas, with more attention resulting in more influence or cognitive stimulation. However, research suggests that small sets of individuals (or nominal groups) outperform large interactive groups, which commonly employ group brainstorming. Furthermore, newer research has identified a number of social factors (such as social loafing/free riding, downward comparisons, among others) as being the culprit for this discrepancy in productivity between nominal groups and interactive groups.
In an attempt to uncover the potential for cognitive stimulation in brainstorming, Dugosh and others used idea exposure paradigms in which individuals could listen to tapes of other individuals brainstorming on the same topic while in isolation. By listening to the tapes alone, negative social influences present in group brainstorming sessions were removed from the individual’s brainstorming experience. Also, the presence of instructions during the tape served to enhance attention and improve memory recall. The series of conducted experiments demonstrated the benefit from exposure to others’ ideas in the brainstorming, mainly by showing that it is possible to process ideas generated by someone else while generating own ideas, resulting in enhanced generation of ideas. They also found 2 additional factors that enhance idea production: the number of ideas a person is exposed to and the amount of talking beyond the expression of ideas (filler time) to which a person is exposed. Thus, they conclude that the highest degree of cognitive stimulation occurs when a large number of ideas is presented with no filler (task-irrelevant discussion) or kept to a minimum.
Just something to think about next time you work in a group. To make your time more worthwhile, put your ideas out there, attentively listen to what others have to say, and keep irrelevant discussions to a minimum.
- 15th November