Wednesday, October 04, 2017

How to do effective brainstorming ..

Rational left and the creative right ..
Brainstorming got a fillip after 1981 Nobel medicine laurete Dr Roger Sperry of Caltech proposed the Split Brain Theory back in the sixties, which stressed that the left hemisphere of the brain was more rational while the right hemisphere of the brain was more creative.  Click here for my blog .. The term 'brainstorming' was proposed by Alex Osborn in his 1953 book, Applied Imagination.

The latest research undertaken by Prof. Leigh Thompson of Kellogg School of Management, North western University US was very interesting.

Any brainstorming session would focus on two aspects to measure the efficacy of the output, one being the quantity of ideas generated during the session and second, the variety of ideas (flexibility) generated during the session. 

In a research on about 93 managers divided randomly into three member groups done by Leigh Thomson, members of half of these groups during the introduction session was each asked to narrate an embarrassing event in their life during the preceding six months and each of the other half group members were asked to narrate their achievements during the preceding six months. 

Leigh Thompson and her team gave ten minutes for the introduction part and ten minutes for the brainstorming. She then observed the efficacy of the brainstorming session in terms of quantity and variety of the ideas (fluency and flexibility). 

It was observed that the groups that were asked to introduce with embarrassing stories over the past six months generated 26% more ideas (fluency) spanning 15% more use categories (flexibility) than their counterparts who introduced themselves within the group with achievements over the preceding six months. 

What could be the reason for this change in group behaviour of the embarrassments narration group over the achievements narration groups. My thinking led me to come up with these few thoughts.

1. By narrating embarrassing events, the team members were more aware of their shortcomings and thus were at a lower ground of thinking to start with, which helped them generate more diverse fields ideas.
2. By narrating embarrassments and failures, the team members unconsciously did more of innovative and self-corrective thinking than the achievements narration group 
3. By narrating their embarrassing actions and at the same time listening to others' embarrassing episodes, there was more realistic evaluation of events than the achievements narration group.

I am planning to test this on my students in the class for a first hand understanding of the psychology behind this research finding.


Ref : 1. Leigh Thompson, For better brainstorming, tell an embarrassing story, HBR, Oct, 2007

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