In its modern format, the technique of brainstorming can be traced to extensive efforts initiated in the 1940s by advertising executive Alex Osborn. His intention was to restructure meetings to overcome inhibitions that block idea generation. The operational mechanisms of the technique support two basic principles of deferral of judgment, and extended idea search. Benefits may extend beyond efficient idea generation, to contributions to team‐building, and creative problem‐solving performance. Many versions of the technique are known, including its individual, electronic, and non‐interactive (nominal) modes. Experimental research has confirmed that nominal groups outperform those in interactive mode for quantity of ideas generated across a range of experimental conditions. The evidence on quality of ideas has been less conclusive. Situational factors have contributed to a lack of generalizibility of results. Field studies have reported a bias in favour of the interactive modes in some cultures, notably North America, and a bias for nominal modes in others. Brainstorming has found use as a supplement to other techniques, particularly as a component within a more comprehensive creative problem‐solving structure. However, carefully researched field studies and comparative analyses have remained scarce to the present time. Within the confines of industrial practice, a combination of techniques often serves to overcome technique selection uncertainties. There is some evidence suggesting that less efficient modes of brainstorming may be associated with higher levels of participant satisfaction. Since the late 1980s, interest has grown in electronically supported brainstorming. Under laboratory conditions, nominal groups have been reconfirmed as outperforming interactive ones, although both modes seem outperformed under specified conditions by electronic support systems, which may represent a third modality of brainstorming. Explanations of the effectiveness reduction have been proposed in terms of production blocking, social loafing, and evaluation apprehension. Another explanation considers effectiveness to be multi‐dimensional, and situationally dependent.
International Journal of Management Reviews – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1999
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