OPERAmeeting

Effective meetings F2F and virtually

"Electronic brainstorming" – a way to overcome the shortcomings of a group brainstorming

In late 1940’s, A Madison Avenue advertising executive Alex Osborn introduced the still popular method attempting to increase the quantity and quality of ideas within a team. Despite the apparent benefits in principal (getting more good ideas through increasing the quantity, no criticism, and evaluating the ideas later), however, studies since the introduction of the method have found little proof of the actual benefits of the brainstorming – especially in an open group setting.

Adrian Furnham (Professor of psychology and Director of the Business Psychology Unit at University College London) has pinpointed the shortcomings of traditional, open-group brainstorming in three problematic areas in his 2000 article "The Brainstorming Myth":

- Social  loafing:  the group context enables individuals to make less effort.
- Evaluation apprehension: fear of suggesting ideas which might make one look foolish.
- Production blocking: any one group member can suggest an idea at any moment.

Professor Furnham then suggests ”Electronic brainstorming” as an answer to the problems related to a group brainstorming in a traditional meeting set up. He refers to several studies made already in the 1990's pointing out the benefits of simultaneous electronic brainstorming. He writes:

Social loafing is less likely to occur because individuals may be concerned that the ideas they key in are logged and counted. Evaluation apprehension does not occur because the source of the ideas is anonymous. Production blocking does not occur because participants can assess and attend to others’ ideas when it suits them and not when others impose it.

In OPERA Meeting, the free-text O-phase suggestions are not ”counted” in a sense Professor Furnham suggests, but according to our experience, given a chance to think through the challenge on their own, everyone will contribute more than in an open meeting brainstorming, making the "social loafing" more unlikely. "Evaluation apprehension" is not a problem in OPERA Meeting process, since the free notes in O phase are not ”public” (they are seen by your pair in the next phase), creating a safe environment for you to express your suggestions just to your pair without ”publishing” them to all just yet. "Production blocking" is removed due to the fact that the ideation and idea refining with your pair is conducted simultaneously for all participants.

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