In Susan Cain’s brilliant book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, `there is a passage which discusses brainstorming and the psychological dynamics. Turns out psychologists often identify three reasons for failure in brainstorming, social loafing, production blocking, and evaluation apprehension.
Social loafing, we’ve pretty much all experienced it at some point in school, some participants kicking back and relaxing while the others do the work. Production blocking is similar except one individual is active/aggressive and the rest of the group is passive. Evaluation apprehension is what we’ve all felt at some point. We are afraid of looking stupid.
While the three brainstorming outcomes are interesting, what they may not be is effective in moving a project in the right direction. Even more concerning is the research showing our minds are capable of re-framing what is the correct information into incorrect information if the group seems to be leaning towards a path or answer we are not. Clearly that ends in going down an unproductive path as well.
Most of us have bought into the brainstorming concept and always assumed it was a proactive tool for positive project outcomes. Science tells us that just isn’t so. So whether it is a grant application, new product development, sales planning, etc. make sure you are implementing group work, not brainstorming as the difference will impact your success or failure.