Saturday, October 17, 2015

Recommendations from an Associative Memory Perspective: Making Group Brainstorming More Effective



Making Group Brainstorming More Effective: Recommendations from an Associative Memory Perspective
Vincent R. Brown and Paul B. Paulus
Department of Psychology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York (V.R.B.), and Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas (P.B.P.) http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/11/6/208.full.pdf+html

Introduction
Literature on group brainstorming has found it to be less effective than individual brainstorming. The author begins with asserting that the enthusiasm for collective work may not always be justified. The following is some of the evidence the author provides:

·         Controlled studies of idea sharing in groups have shown that groups often overestimate their effectiveness (Paulus, Larey, & Ortega, 1995).

·         Experiments comparing interactive brainstorming groups with sets of individuals who do not interact in performing the same task have found that groups generate fewer ideas and that group members exhibit reduced motivation and do not fully share unique information (e.g., Mullen, Johnson, & Salas, 1991).

·         The strongest inhibitory effect of groups may be production blocking, which is a reduction in productivity due to the fact that group members must take turns in describing their ideas (Diehl & Stroebe, 1991).

Group Creativity
The author states that the most evident critique of group brainstorming is that it hinders creativity. In addition, “Most research on creativity has examined individual creativity because it is typically seen as a personal trait or skill.” Contrary to this literature, the authors assert that individual creativity is hindered when the process of collaboration is taken into account. For example, “much creative work requires collaboration of people with diverse sets of knowledge and skills.” Furthermore, “How can such groups overcome the inevitable liabilities of group interaction to reach their creative potential and is it possible to demonstrate that group interaction can lead to enhanced creativity?”

Intuitively, the cognitive benefits of brainstorming in a group seem clear: People believe that they come up with ideas in a group that they would not have thought of on their own. The potential for mutual stimulation of ideas is one of the reasons for the popularity of group brainstorming. The authors provide a model for ideational creativity in brainstorming. The model is referred to as the “Semantic Networks and an Associative Memory Model of Group Brainstorming.”  To use the semantic network representation as a basis for exploring group brainstorming, many details need to be specified (See article for details). Despite the amount of steps and requirements, it is probable this is the type of rigor and structure brainstorming needs.

Enhancing Group brainstorming: Three brainstorming procedures that appear promising
The authors studied three brainstorming procedures that appear promising for theoretical reasons and continue to garner some empirical support. These are 1) Individual and Group Brainstorming, brainwriting, and electronic brainstorming.

·         Individual and Group Brainstorming: Combining group and solitary brainstorming
·         Brainwriting: Having group brainstormers interact by writing instead of speaking
·         Electronic Brainstorming: Using networked computers on which individuals type their ideas and read the ideas of others.

Summary
In contrast to the literature, the authors argue, “A cognitive perspective suggests that group brainstorming could be an effective technique for generating creative ideas.” Evidence presented by computer simulations of an associative memory model of idea generation in groups suggest that teams, “have the potential to generate ideas that individuals brainstorming alone are less likely to generate.” Moreover, diverse teams are most likely to benefit from the social exchange of ideas. The author further adds, “Although face-to-face interaction is seen as a natural modality for group interaction, using writing or computers can enhance the exchange of ideas.”

Critique
The author’s three recommendations on idea sharing that include the exchanging ideas by means of writing or computers, alternating solitary and group brainstorming, and using diverse groups appear to be useful approaches for enhancing group brainstorming. Although these ideas won’t curtail all group think, brainstorming is starting point for solving complex problems given that brainstorming is done properly. One of the downfalls of this technique is that it does not a specific set of rules or steps. Despite this disadvantage, this could also be viewed as an advantage due to its applicability across domains and problem sets. Regardless of the problem set, it is a given that individual or group brainstorming will always be practiced. As a result, the technique should be practiced and aimed to be done effectively and efficiently. This article provides enough evidence to convince readers to consider the elements of their brainstorming sessions; however, I am curious to what constitutes an effective brainstorming session and could this even be measured.

5 comments:

  1. What I find interesting about this article is the author cites literate that states group brainstorming is less effective than individual brainstorming, but then provides examples that suggest otherwise. One of the suggestions the author mentioned was individual and group brainstorming which sounds similar to nominal group technique. Nonetheless, my take away from this article is that group brainstorming is effective only under controlled or supervised conditions, otherwise the group is prone to group think or individuals with stronger personalities will dominate the discussion.

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  2. I agree with your statement. I think it is easier for brainstorming to go 'rouge' without having a control or facilitator.

    As far as NGT goes, Heuer describes it similar to brainstorming. See below for excerpt on page 100 for his description:

    Nominal Group Technique, often abbreviated NGT, serves much the same function as Structured Brainstorming, but it uses a quite different approach. It is the preferred technique when there is concern that a senior member or outspoken member of the group may dominate the meeting, that junior members may be reluctant to speak up, or that the meeting may lead to heated debate. Nominal Group Technique encourages equal participation by requiring participants to present ideas one at a time in round-robin fashion until all participants feel that they have run out of ideas.

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  3. This article also explains that modified versions of brain storming method like nominal group technique and the techniques that are mentioned in this article are very robust even though brain storming has many weaknesses itself.

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  4. Your article seems to have hit on some of the points that mine did, especially in regards to production blocking which I thought was a good point. Also, like Oleg, I also found it most interesting that individual brainstorming is seen as more effective than group brainstorming. I also really agree with you when you said that brainstorming is something that will always be done, so it might as well be done in the most effective way which is why I think our two articles are really helpful.

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  5. Your article seems to have hit on some of the points that mine did, especially in regards to production blocking which I thought was a good point. Also, like Oleg, I also found it most interesting that individual brainstorming is seen as more effective than group brainstorming. I also really agree with you when you said that brainstorming is something that will always be done, so it might as well be done in the most effective way which is why I think our two articles are really helpful.

    ReplyDelete