Creativity and Collaboration: When Working Together, First Work Separately

Ten creative people in a room won’t generate as many ideas in 20 minutes as ten creative people in separate rooms. That’s why in collaborative groups, the collaboration should start individually. At the first group meeting, each member should come with a list of a hundred ideas, or more. Most people think that throwing ideas around in group brainstorming sessions is the best way to get a wide range of ideas going. But what actually happens is the group generates ideas at a slower rate and the concepts tend to have a narrower scope.

Once a word goes up on the board, it influences how the group thinks. Sometimes it will start a trend, and other times it can set a standard of quality. As boisterous people continue to belt out new ideas, shy people are less likely to compete for attention and therefore, don’t contribute. And even though it seems like ideas are popping up quickly, they really aren’t.

So, before groups have their initial meetings, have each member generate a list of at least a hundred ideas on their own. Four people will usually generate a hundred ideas, each, in less time that the group as a whole can generate a total of a hundred ideas. Separately, their ideas span a broader range of possibilities and are less similar. Plus, everyone has something to start with. You can go around the room and have each person contribute ten or so from their list to be placed on the board. From there, the group can work to start their session.


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