It’s been an inviolate tenet of business for years—that the best way to get good ideas is to get a group of people together and brainstorm.
Unfortunately, it might not the case after all.
The book Quiet: The Power of Introversion in a World That Can’t Stop Talking describes a study by Marvin Dunnette, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota. Dunnette looked at whether people came up with better ideas by themselves or in a group. A total of 96 MMM employees participated, half research scientists (probably introverts) and half advertising executives (probably extroverts).
The participants were divided into groups of four. They were given a problem to brainstorm as a group, and each person was given a problem to brainstorm on his or her own. The researchers counted all the ideas and measured their quality, rating them on a “probability scale” of 0 through 4.
The result? The participants in 23 of the 24 groups ”produced more ideas on their own than when they were part of a group.” Perhaps more significantly, “they produced ideas of equal or higher quality when working individually.” And the presumably extroverted advertising executives didn’t do any better than the presumably introverted scientists.
Since that study (which was done in 1963), other studies have come to similar conclusions. What’s more, the “studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six which do worse than groups of four.”
Interestingly, ”the one exception to this is online brainstorming,” which is really solitary brainstorming that is shared.
Just another example of the importance of periodically questioning the status quo.