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Evidence has long shown that getting a group of people to think individually about solutions, and then combining their ideas, can be more productive than getting them to think as a group. Some people are afraid of introducing radical ideas in front of a group and don’t speak up; in other cases, the group is either too small or too big to be effective.
But according to a recently published study, the real problem may be that participants’ get stuck on each others’ ideas.
Kohn and Smith believed the cause might be due to “cognitive fixation,” or the concept that, when exposed to group members’ ideas, people focused on those and blocked other types of ideas from taking hold. They experimented with this by manipulating the number of ideas participants saw in their chat windows, with some getting a few cues and others getting more. Their hypothesis was right: When exposed to many cues, the undergrads offered up less creative, diverse ideas. The numbers improved when the students were given a five-minute break during the exercise.
As with all such studies, there’s plenty of pretty obvious common sense to this research. But it’s a helpful reminder of how unhelpful it can be when managers dump people in a room together, thinking it will result in creative big ideas. Somehow, a belief in the power of group brainstorming sessions persists, despite evidence that it doesn’t work.Possibly relevant to RPGs?