This blog addresses the statement ‘human creativity has increasingly become a group process.’ I came across this quotation in Lehrer’s 2012 article ‘Brainstorming Doesn’t Really Work.’ Here, Lehrer draws upon the ideas of business writer Alex Osborn. As reflected in the quotation, Osborn believed working in a group environment stimulates creative productivity. He pioneered the collaborative thinking process of ‘brainstorming’ which he described as “using the brain to storm a creative problem—and doing so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective.” (Lehrer, 2012)
Lehrer acknowledges that team work has become a powerful constituent of creativity. He champions the idea that group interactions are especially necessary in the workplace. However, he does not share Osborn’s enthusiasm for brainstorming sessions. Lehrer’s disapproval of brainstorming stems mainly from its typical ban of criticism. He points out that many brainstorming sessions in the workplace will be prefaced with the ground rule that criticism is not allowed. The purpose of this is to avoid hurting the feelings of any co-workers. Lehrer puts forth the interesting idea that criticism is not as negative or destructive as it is often made out to be. He suggests that despite its bad reputation, criticism “allows people to dig below the surface of the imagination and come up with collective ideas that aren’t predictable.” (Lehrer, 2012)
Cain’s 2012 article ‘The Rise of the New Groupthink’ mirrors Lehrer’s contempt for brainstorming. Cain also challenges Osborn’s convictions, as apparent in the quotation “brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity.” (Cain, 2012) She states that “decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity.”
One of Cain’s main points is that solidarity and introversion are underrated characteristics in modern society. She points out that while many people are aware of Steve Jobs, introverted Apple engineer Steve Wozniak often goes unnoticed. While Cain realises that no man is an island, she believes that solitary thought can be an important stimulant of creativity (Cain, 2012).
I agree with the arguments presented by both Cain and Lehrer. By placing too much emphasis on collaborative discussion, the benefits of thinking alone are ignored. Lehrer discusses an alternative method of brainstorming where each person in the group goes off by themselves and composes a list of ideas. The group then reconvenes and compiles their individual ideas. I feel this is a more productive form of collaborative creativity as not only will there be a larger quantity of ideas, they will be more well-considered and higher in quality. To return to the initial quote, yes human creativity has increasingly become a group process. But this does not necessarily mean that this is the most efficient form of creativity, perhaps it is just the easy way out?
The concept of collaborative productivity is something that I can apply to my final assignment. One of the key questions I intend to investigate is whether the collaborative aspects of online self-tracking devices are effective in keeping users motivated.
Cain, Susan (2012) ‘The Rise of the New Groupthink’, The New York Times, January 13, <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html>
Lehrer, Jonah (2012) ‘Brainstorming Doesn’t Really Work’ , The New Yorker, January 30