Unleashing Group Genius: 4 Key Benefits
of Collaborative Idea Generation
by Mitchell Rigie & Keith Harmeyer, Partners, SmartStorming.com
At some point virtually everyone who works in an organization will be invited to attend a meeting focused on idea generation - in other words, a group brainstorming session.
Brainstorming may seem like an obvious activity, something we just do instinctively. But in fact, it’s generally held that brainstorming, as a process, was “invented” back in the 1930s, by a group of advertising professionals led by Alex Osborn (one of the founders of BBDO Advertising).
Apparently Osborn was onto something. Ever since its introduction, group brainstorming has been, and continues to be, the most widely utilized process for idea generation in organizations. Every day, in conference rooms around the world, tens of thousands of people gather, and put their heads together to come up with ways to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities.
While group brainstorming as typically practiced isn’t all perfect, it does provide some significant benefits to the creative problem solving process.
- Diversity in viewpoints, knowledge, and experience - You’ve heard the expression “two heads are better than one?” Well this can be especially true when it comes to brainstorming. In fact, the more diversity there is among the participants, in terms of personality type, age, background, knowledge, skills, and experience, the wider the range of insights and innovative ideas the group will be able to generate - a far greater range than any one person alone can typically produce alone.
- Cross-pollination and rapid development of ideas - Kicking around and exploring lots of different possibilities with others can stimulate the spontaneous cross-pollination of ideas. In other words, one person’s idea can quickly spark a dozen or more new and different associations from the group. We call that phenomenon the “popcorning” of ideas. The opportunity to build on one another’s ideas is a key benefit of the group problem-solving process - because often one person may come up with one part of a solution, while others provide the missing pieces.
- “Group Genius” - The phenomenon known as group genius occurs when a group of people becomes single-mindedly focused in its creative problem-solving activity. All sense of time, place, and self-consciousness or ego disappears. Everyone feels highly alert, engaged, and on top of their games. Everything flows. It’s under these conditions that a unified sense of effortless collaboration emerges. The group begins to function as a single, collective mind that intuitively knows the best ways to build upon, amplify, or refine one another’s ideas.
- Greater productivity: a wider range of new and different ideas - When a group is able to work at maximum effectiveness, under the guidance of a skilled brainstorming leader, they’re capable of accomplishing a great deal in a relatively short amount of time. Groups can easily generate dozens, if not a hundred or more ideas in a single, highly productive brainstorming session.
As you can see, there are a lot of advantages to generating ideas as part of a group...greater diversity in thinking, knowledge and experience; enhanced productivity in less time; and perhaps most important, the ability to generate a wider range of different types of ideas than one can when working solo.
Participating in a group brainstorming session can be a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience, when conducted properly. The more group sessions you participate in, the more you’ll appreciate the feeling of accomplishment that comes from solving challenges through creative collaboration.