According to an upcoming study from Applied Cognitive Psychology, brainstorming may not be the best way to get creative juices flowing among people, group, or organizations.
The researchers from Texas A and M University show that group brainstorming exercises can lead to fixation on only one idea or possibility, blocking out other ideas and possibilities, and leading eventually to a conformity of ideas.
"Fixation to other people's ideas can occur unconsciously and lead to you suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative," said lead researcher Nicholas Kohn.
The researchers used AOL Instant Messenger as their electronic discussion format when conducting the experiments, which included groups of two, three, and four subjects.
The study and other researches have also shown that taking a break (allowing for a mental incubation period in participants) can stem the natural decline in quantity (production deficit) and the variety of ideas, and encourage problem solving.
Thus, group creativity may be an overestimated method to generate ideas and individual brainstorming exercises (such as written creativity drills) may be more effective.
If ideas are to be shared in a group setting, members of the group need to be aware of this fixation phenomenon, and take steps to prevent conformity.
This will lead to a more vibrant, fresh discussion and a wider range of possible solutions.
The study is published in the latest issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology.