Here's one I'm not sure if I believe. What do you think?
A recent article by Art Markham in Psychology Today, entitled "Building During Brainstorming,"suggests that brainstorming isn't always as productive as one might think. It is based on a paper in the May, 2011 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Nicholas Kohn, Paul Paulus, and YunHee Choi. First, it says:
There has been a lot of research on brainstorming over the years, and it generally shows that groups are less effective than individuals. That is, if you got a group of three people brainstorming, that group would come up with fewer ideas (and fewer good ideas) than if the people had worked alone. This observation that groups are less effective than individuals is called productivity loss.
Then, it poses the question:
A potentially powerful aspect of brainstorming, though, is the process of combining ideas. That is, after a set of ideas are generated, it may turn out that a combination of a few of the ideas is more effective than any of those individual ideas alone. Are groups more effective than individuals when combining ideas?
[P]eople working in groups . . . were particularly productive when given rare ideas. [Rare ideas were ones that were unusual from the norm.] The groups generated combinations that were much more novel and yet still quite feasible to implement when given rare ideas. That is, groups seemed particularly well-suited to taking rare ideas and creating new and interesting combinations from them.
I am a bit skeptical mainly about the first part, in that I have seen very effective brainstorming sessions that have generated great ideas. In any event, in my view, the major value of brainstorming is not the substantive ideas that emerge. It is the creation of teamwork and collaboration along the way. In an organization, this is actually more important than the particular result. Brainstorming is a trust-building exercise that offers the advantage of helping people propose ideas without the burden of ownership, understand each other's interests, trade on differences, and thereby reach a sustainable negotiated result.