Tag Archives: business

Why brainstorming is ineffective and how to fix it

ideas

Photo credit: khoraxis

Psychblog has posted a controversial article entitled  Brainstorming reloaded which claims that brainstorming doesn’t work after all. Brainstorming, as a method of pooling the group’s ideas, has been around for a long time. I know that Australian teacher librarians, at least, still promote it as a starting point for research, and subject teachers are also using it as a springboard to discussion within a topic.

Brainstorming certainly looks like a great way of dealing with some of the problems associated with decision-making and creativity in groups, such as groupthink and people’s failure to share information effectively. By suspending evaluation, encouraging a relaxed atmosphere and quantity over quality, the brainstorming session is supposed to foster creativity.

But the article goes on to undermine the effectiveness of brainstorming:

But now we know that brainstorming doesn’t actually work that well. Experiment after experiment has shown that people in brainstorming sessions produce fewer and lower quality ideas than those working alone (Furnham, 2000). Here’s why:

  1. Social loafing: people slack off to a frightening degree in certain types of group situations like brainstorming.
  2. Evaluation apprehension: although evaluation isn’t allowed in a traditional brainstorming session, everyone knows others are scrutinising their input.
  3. Production blocking: while one person is talking the others have to wait. They then forget or dismiss their ideas, which consequently never see the light of day.

The article suggests that brainstorming be conducted online in order to achieve higher quality results:

In this research brainstormers typed in their ideas to a computer which also displayed other people’s ideas at the same time. This rather neatly gets around the social loafing and production blocking problems.

The conclusion of the psychological literature, therefore, is that people should be encouraged to generate ideas on their own and meetings should be used to evaluate these ideas.

I’m not sure what you might think about this, but something doesn’t sit right with me. It sounds like a good idea to simultaneously generate ideas online – I like the idea of all the contributions being visible real-time – but I think the classroom has its own group dynamics. Perhaps this research is more relevant to business. I think that there is a group dynamics and sense of trust which has hopefully been created by the classroom teacher. I’m not sure if secondary students are too critical of their peers’ suggestions in the brainstorming process.

Even if you set up the individual and simultaneous online brainstorming, wouldn’t students be threatened by the competitiveness of generating as many ideas as their peers? This may not be obvious online, but they could easily tell if others are typing in suggestions or just sitting there. You would also have the problem of those who think quickly getting in first with ideas that others may have come to later. Altogether, I think you’d have the same problems. At least with the teacher mediating an oral brainstorming session, he/she would be aware of those needing encouragement to contribute.

However, I do like the idea of an online brainstorming tool which allows every student’s contribution to be seen. Online brainstorming tools like bubbl.us are good, but are not a collaborative tool. Collaborative online brainstorming sounds like a solution to the isolation of a regular online tool. The article points out the importance of the group in the activity:

Why not just send people off individually to generate ideas if this is more efficient? The answer is because of its ability to build consensus by giving participants the feeling of involvement in the process. People who have participated in the creative stage are likely to be more motivated to carry out the group’s decision.

What do you think? What are your experiences with brainstorming? Your thoughts about the effectiveness of brainstorming, either as part of classroom discussion with the teacher writing down the group’s ideas on the board, or students using applications like Inspiration or bubbl.us

Am I missing something or is there a collaborative online brainstorming tool which I should be using?

 And what is your reaction to the last line of the article?

Groups aren’t where ideas are born, but where they come to sink or swim.

 

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16 habits of highly creative people

Most people would deny being creative. Have you noticed that? People who display obvious creativity, but who say, ‘Who me? I’m not creative!’  It’s the strange fallacy that in order to be creative you have to be good at drawing or play an instrument like a prodigy.

Ken Robinson talks about creativity. I’ve written previously about his TED talk and his book, The element. He has also written a paper entitled Creativity in the classroom, innovation in the workplace. in response to the following question:

What should be the role of business and industry in the education of today’s youth, and what strategies can realistically be put in place by business now to foster innovation on the widest possible range of platforms?

Ken begins by saying the following:

Businesses everywhere have to compete in a world that’s changing faster than ever. To keep pace they need people who can consistently generate new ideas and adapt to constant change. Many companies say it’s getting harder to find these people. One of the major reasons is education. All over the world, formal education systematically suppresses creative thinking and flexibility. National strategies to raise standards in education are making matters worse because they’re rooted in an old model of economic development and a narrow view of intelligence. For economic, cultural and political reasons, creativity should be promoted systematically at all levels of education, alongside literacy and numeracy.

According to Ken, the problem in the workplace is not a shortage of graduates, but something entirely different:

Companies now face an unusual crisis in graduate recruitment. It’s not that there aren’t enough graduates to go around, it’s that too many of them can’t communicate, work in teams or think creatively.

 Shalu Wasu, a Singapore-based trainer and consultant,  conducts open programs on Creativity and Innovation and Blogging for Business at NUS extension. He offers 16 habits of highly creative people on the Tickled by life website.

1. Creative people are full of curiosity.

2. Creative people are problem-friendly.

3. Creative people value their ideas.

4. Creative people embrace challenges.

5. Creative people are full of enthusiasm.

6. Creative people are persistent.

7. Creative people are perennially dissatisfied.

8. Creative people are optimists.

9. Creative people make positive Judgment.

10. Creative people go for the big kill.

11. Creative people are prepared to stick it out.

12. Creative people do not fall in love with an idea.

13. Creative people recognize the environment in which they are most creative.

14. Creative people are good at reframing any situation.

15. Creative people are friends with the unexpected.

 16. Creative people are not afraid of failures.

Read the full article here.

If, as Ken Robinson says, creativity will be most sought after in work of our students’ future, then what implications does this have for education? Are the above habits of creative people skills that are teachable? One thing that is certain is that none of the habits are tied to measurable content, which is the weight of our present curriculum. Obviously, knowledge of content is necessary for any profession, but it may not be enough to succeed. If you want to be a driving force in any job, you may have to acquire some of the creative habits.

I like #14: Creative people are good at reframing any situation

Reframes are a different way of looking at things. Being able to reframe experiences and situations is a very powerful skill.

Reframing allows you to look at a situation from a different angle. It is like another camera angle in a football match. And a different view has the power to change your entire perception of the situation.

Reframing can breathe new life into dead situations. It can motivate demoralized teams. It helps you to spot opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.

If looking at things from different perspectives is an aspect of creativity, then in order to develop creativity in students, the method of teaching should allow for these different perspectives. There are teachers of English, Mathematics, Science, and other subjects, whose teaching is based on encouraging different perspectives. Do they realise how important this is? Or do they do it simply because it’s the way they think? Think on, we need more teachers like these!

 How would you design a curriculum that developed these habits of creativity?

I’ll finish this post with the quote at the conclusion of Ken Robinson’s paper:

It’s often said that education is the key to the future. It is. But a key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and you lock resources away: turn it another and you release them. In education as in business, it’s no longer enough to read, write and calculate. We won’t survive the future simply by doing better what we have done in the past. In the future, we must learn to be creative.

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Blogs are NOT airy-fairy, soul-searching, self-indulgent

You know how you can’t let some things go?

Well, the back of my mind is often processing ways to demonstrate to people the value of reading and writing blogs. Recently I read an educator’s comments about introducing teachers to Web 2.0 practices, where he says he wouldn’t start with blogging, but provide teachers with examples of great blogs to read. Often people considering blogging will say that they don’t know what to blog about. It’s a bit like a student getting an open essay topic; it’s difficult because it’s undefined. That’s why reading blogs of people who share your interests is a good starting point for new bloggers or even sceptics. What I’m actually saying is – you don’t know what you’re missing – there are people out there who are really worth knowing, in all parts of the world and in many spheres of life and occupation.

John Connell linked to a series of blog networking interviews by Lilia Efimova in his post about passionate bloggers. People whose blogs centred around knowledge management topics were interviewed by Lilia about how they used blogs for networking. What’s particularly interesting is the variety of backgrounds represented. Lilia’s interviews covered the following:

  • professional background of a participant and characteristics of her network in KM field prior to blogging
  • changes in the network or networking practices because of blogging
  • uses of weblogs for developing, maintaining and activating relations as a starting point for articulating stages of the process at more granular level
  • place of the weblog in the ecosystem of networking tools (mainly focusing on what weblogs are good for and when they do not work).
  • important networking-related issues that haven’t been discussed

Here are some examples:

Brett Miller, a system engineer, says

 “I know more people in different areas of KM when I knew before.” Blogging helped him to reach people he wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

Dave Snowden is a founder and a Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, a consulting company focusing on complexity, sense-making and narratives. He was formerly a director of IBM Institute of Knowledge Management and founder of the Cynefin Centre for organisational complexity. He has about 50 science bloggers in his RSS reader.

“They scan journals for me, so I don’t have myself … I’ve learnt to trust them over the years … it’s much better than summarisation surface”.

Euan Semple is an independent advisor for social computing for business (www.euansemple.com). He started blogging with his personal weblog The Obvious. He says:

“Previously I was subject to geographical constraints or social constraints or organisational constraints as of who I was likely to meet and suddenly with online networks I’ve been able to connect to […] the whole bunch of interesting and interested people whom I suddenly had an access to in a way in a normal life I would never ever had that chance. I could then establish relationships and (and again something I get very hot about) is that these are not pretend or unreal or virtual relationship, the real relationship, where you build up trust and affect and those powerful things that make people work together. Online.”

And also:

[Blogging] is “a collective pointing that helps to find stuff, once you have an established group of bloggers you read and trust. And their ability to find a good stuff to point to it, increases your signal to noise ratio on the web … Blogs do that better than other tools because of the context – you have to say why that is important, why are you pointing to something”.

Luis Suarez works at IBM as social software evangelist. He is located in Spain, but travels frequently for his work. He says:

Weblogs allow you to get beyond what people publish and to get as sense of what a person is like – to build a profile of a person as a person, not a business entity. Not how long you have been married, but how people write articles. When you write a blogpost you are giving yourself out as a person. The line between life and work is going to disappear.

The question of blogs developing trust is an interesting one. Luis says that trust is developed through a ‘willingness to expose what you don’t know’, and ‘a willingness to learn not yet finished thinking’ or ‘taking a radical position that invites criticism’, ‘being brave and bold’. He added that ‘there is something special about somebody coming to your place to leave their words there’.

Talking about changes in professional network as a result of blogging, Monica Andre, who worked in a research lab in Lisbon focusing on information behaviour and information management, says:

“I didn’t realise that linking and giving credits to someone’s work would extend my professional network extended very quickly.” She then told a story of being contacted by a municipality government from Spain who wanted her to speak at an event. “I didn’t know I was followed by them. If [people] leave comments, you have a clue, a footprint. It turns out that guy who was reading my blog suggested the government that I would be a good person to talk as a keynote speaker”. When she received an email she thought it was a joke, but they called to confirm.

These are only a few examples of what people had to say about blogging in Lilia’s interviews, just to whet your appetite. You can read all interview summaries on Lilia Efimova’s blog Mathemagenic.

It’s difficult to ‘convert’ people to reading and writing blogs and to online networking in general for a variety of reasons I’ve spoken about many times in previous posts. It may be as difficult as religious or political conversion. To those of you reading this post, I’m preaching to the converted, I know. So please tell me, have you had successful experiences in converting those resistant to blogging that you would like to share?

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, internet, learning, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0