Another experiment seems to have yielded just the contrary results to the vindication of brainstorming:

Ziegler, R., Diehl, M. & Zijlstra, G. (in press). Idea production in nominal and virtual groups: Does computer-mediated communication improve group brainstorming?. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.


Findings in previous research on the effectiveness of computer brainstorming groups as compared to other kinds of brainstorming groups are equivocal with regard to the quantity and quality of idea production. Nevertheless, using computer-mediated communication is often recommended to enhance idea production in brainstorming groups. This recommendation is based on the assumption that reading others‘ ideas leads to mutual cognitive stimulation. To test this assumption, two conceptually similar experiments were run comparing two-member and four-member computer brainstorming groups with and without having the opportunity to exchange ideas. Although, in conditions with computer-mediated communication there should have been three times as much stimulation for individuals in four-member groups as compared to two-member groups, irrespective of group size neither quantity nor quality measures showed any improvement over conditions without computer-mediated communication. Instead, in both experiments, communication led to uniformity tendencies which lowered flexibility of idea production.

Autor: R. Ziegler, 8. Oktober 1999.


The above described research seems somewhat half baked, with insufficient control groups, and too many competing strategies or methodologies unrepresented. nevertheless, the danger to creativity in tendencies from conformity is manifest. 

But is isolation truly the only remedy? Must creativity ever be pariah? 

Then again, if more heads are better than one, this may precisely be in narrowing rather than broadening selection, in better balanced  judgment through error covariance, rather than imagination and variety. 

And another factor, though not included among the control groups, may be that which we call democratic values, including dissidence. Cultures that refuse to enjoy arguing will as a consequence be impaired, creatively. In consensus culture, people are forced to choose between individuality in isolation, or uniformity as the price of conditional approval, never knowing true acceptance.  

The experiment as described above simply neglects to foment debate or competition. Nor is it clear that even free choice of preference for the more fertile points of creative departure over those less interesting was facilitated, individually or collectively. Only that different people responded to the same input, and compared notes, while in the only control group, they did not compare notes. 

Alas, not all consensus is error covariant and thus reached in parallel to better judgment. Quite the contrary, often consensus is achieved in obtuse denial or sheer bad will. And in rejection of criticality, any questions of such distinctions are consequently ruled out of bounds. 

However unintentionally, the experiment blunders into the realm of mob psychology, suggesting how groups may be cunningly structured for purposes of propaganda indoctrination, and how they may validate one another following the same leading questions. To make certain, all that is needed is for one group member to be the leader or a shill, the Political Commissar, to make sure that we will all get along just swell!  

And this goes to my attack upon Inductivist pseudo-brainstorming, consensus exercises disguised as creativity. And I suspect that the experimenter R. Ziegler fails to fathom, is that he or she may be debunking the unreasonable facsimile, and not the genuine article, when it comes to true collaborative brainstorming. Better by far, future interaction on the frontiers of advanced automated Sociometry.   




Copyright 2001 -  2009 by Aaron Agassi