Can brainstorming work online?

The internet: brainstorming's last hope?

Virtual brainstorming leverages the advantages of individual working, while encouraging a larger pool of ideas.

“Brainstorming” brings together a group of people with the aim of generating more ideas than they could all invent on their own. The golden rules for any session are to create as many ideas as you can, and never criticise or knock ideas down.

Yet seven decades after the process was invented by ad executive Alex Osborn, a lot of researchers say face-to-face brainstorming doesn’t deliver. Most academic studies have found that individuals working alone tend to produce more and better ideas than individuals working together.

But in an article for the Harvard Business Review online, business psychology expert Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, from University College London, suggests brainstorming works better online.

“Virtual” brainstorming online:

  • eliminates “production blocking”, where dominant participants take over the session
  • encourages a wider variety of ideas, by preventing people seeing each other’s ideas during the idea-generation phase
  • enables anonymity, which eliminates “evaluation apprehension”

Essentially, virtual brainstorming is more like individuals brainstorming on their own. By using it, says Chamorro-Premuzic, teams capture some of brainstorming’s benefits while overcoming many of its barriers.

This article is from the June issue of INTHEBLACK.

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June 2015
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