Brainstorming Doesn’t Work — and What Does

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The article defines brainstorming as a bland, “there are no bad ideas” sort of thing, and says that it is less productive than people working separately and then bringing their ideas together after they’ve listed them out.

In contrast, it says that a more contentious form of brainstorming,where participants challenge each other, is more productive, and especially so when measured in terms of productivity after the meeting: those groups were more productive by a certain percent as groups, but the individuals were several times more creative when asked for more ideas after the meeting.

It turns out that groups are most likely to be creative/productive when they are neither too raw nor too ossified. Groups need some experience of each other to develop the comfort necessary to be open with their criticisms, but not so familiar that there are no sparks.

Most interesting to me, however, was the description of a creative space, specifically the descriptions of the atrium at Pixar, which Steve Jobs specifically designed to foster people running into each other, and building 20 at MIT, which just happened to engineer chance meetings. I’ve seen first hand how a workspace can encourage or restrict interaction, and the description of building 20 fascinates me. If I were designing a workspace I think I’d start with a warehouse and encourage something like the City Museum to develop.

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