Hi, I’m Astrid. I’m an organisational psychologist who specialises in anything innovation, and I’ve been writing about the parallels between innovation and dating. I could have kept going for a very long time, but I’m not so single anymore! So here’s my last episode. Stay tuned though for my new series in which I spill the beans on the psychology of innovation by exploring the secrets of our minds! (@Georgie: I changed this text as this is the last one)
So, I’ve met this guy, and now I’m not single anymore. We do a lot of stuff together. It’s nice. We have fun together, tackle problems together, there’s a lot of together happening. It’s like I’ve ‘caught’ the world’s obsession with doing things together! Organisations are a typical example. Every new initiative, or problem that needs solving, results in a group being brought together. They call them teams, groups, committees, workgroups, bodies, networks, steering committees, think tanks, the list is endless. Interestingly, this isn’t always a good idea at all. When it comes to groups working together to come up with ideas, psychology research is very clear. It doesn’t work.
When you compare the ideas that come out of a ‘brainstorming session’ from a group of four people, with the sum of the output of four separate individuals, individuals outperform groups every time. Contrary to popular belief, brainstorming in groups actually reduces the number of ideas, the creativity of ideas and the diversity of ideas. There are a lot of psychological forces at work here. Groups make us feel like we need to perform. Are we saying the ‘right’ creative thing? There are thoughts and ideas that aren’t being shared; level of seniority and level of extraversion are being given disproportionate weighting; there is groupthink; the list is endless.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t work in groups? If only it was that simple! One of the things we know to be absolutely core to creativity, is getting diversity of input. Getting a set of diverse minds together can create outcomes that would never have been created by one person. It’s the X-factor. To get lots of diverse, very creative ideas, you therefore need the best of both worlds. You need to create structures which leverage the benefits of individual performance advantages, whilst also (subsequently) adding the value of the group.
Here’s how you do it:
So, doing everything together isn’t such a good idea.. What a relief!
If you’d like to chat further about group dynamics, creativity or anything else psychology or innovation related, drop me a line! I’m always up for a chat on firstname.lastname@example.org