Ideas are taking centre stage. We see them as the fuel in the innovation engine that the new economy runs on. One of the first and foremost techniques for idea generation at the fuzzy front-end of innovation is brainstorming. Alex Osborn introduced the brainstorming process in his 1948 book ‘Your Creative Power’ and since then, scholars have published number of studies on the subject.
The key parameters that researchers have used to make distinctions about brainstorming has been the size of the group involved in the brainstorming activity and comparisons to non-grouped individuals. The majority of researchers observed an interesting trend. Smaller groups and non-grouped individuals regularly outperform groups of 8 persons and more, when idea productivity per person is measured. Why is this?
Researchers identify two main reasons for the superior performance of smaller groups Blocking and Evaluation Apprehension.
Blocking occurs when members of groups are unable to focus on, and express their ideas because someone else is speaking. The constraining factors include time, and our inability to comprehend more people speaking simultaneously.
Evaluation Apprehension makes itself known when members of a group restrain themselves from sharing or commenting on ideas because of concern with the approval of others. Speaking in front of large crowds is one of the most common fears.
These two factors impede the potential synergies of larger groups, where we aim to reach a state of collective flow where ideas can be recombined, expanded upon and improved by the knowledge and creativity from all members of a crowd.
In the 1990’s Electronic Brainstorming gave large group brainstorms a new chance. The two impeding factors where addressed because group members had the option of anonymity while the digital nature of the group allowed users to express ideas freely. The problem with diminishing returns in idea productivity in larger groups did not occur with Electronic Brainstorming. Thus, Electronic Brainstorming allows for scalability, and we can ask crowds to brainstorm and evaluate our innovation challenges.
With idea markets you have the scalable structure of electronic brainstorms and add the information aggregating mechanism from markets to allow all members of the organization to brainstorm, support and communicate about ideas collectively.