Does more brains mean more and better ideas?

Idea generation is something we spent a lot of time doing and thinking about at Hyper Island. Just came across an article in an old contagious magazine by DR Amantha Imber on brainstorming that made me think about how we could maximize the idea generation aspects of the project that I’ve been working with for the past 4 months.

In the article DR Imber puts words on the frustration I’ve felt during many idea generations – the ideas simply doesn’t become better just because we are more people or because a bigger group can produce a bigger number of ideas. Some of the points she’s mentioning are: while working together a group will adapt to each others ideas and produce ideas similar to each other, we can make up rules for what is not aloud to say but we still can’t control our body language and we listen very poor to each other while trying to come up with smart things to say.

When you on the other hand, she says, let a group of people think about ideas for themselves first before presenting them to the group, the ideas will be better, more diverse and when the group get together they have time to listen to each others ideas and develop them further into much more developed concepts instead of just coming up with more small ideas.

When we did process follow ups at Hyper Island (a process where we take time to reflect on what has happened and how we can change our work process to become more efficient) we learned to reflect individually first before sharing with our team. We rarely did the same thing for idea generation. My experience is that when given time to think for yourself first, the things that will be shared in the group will normally cover a wider range of topics, everyone will have something to share (no one will be left quiet in a corner) and more of the time spent in group can be used to build on the ideas instead of simply coming up with them. To be honest I often get my best ideas doing something completely different and not during brainstorms. I would like to see more idea generations take ideas coming from other directions into consideration.

How can we use this?
— Give the people who will participate in the idea generation the problem a couple of days ahead to give them a chance to think about ideas.
— If we need to come up with ideas during a meeting, use the Shifting technique. This means idea generate individually for 5 minutes, and then share and develop in group. This process is repeated once more and the whole idea generation meeting is over in 20 minutes. During this time using this technique the result is usually more and better ideas than during a 20 minute group brainstorm everyone together.

Easy as a piece of cake! Since it only takes 20 minutes of your time, why don’t try it next time you need to generate ideas and use an alarm to keep track of the time so that you don’t get lost.

Have fun!