How many times have you heard someone utter the phrase, "Now, let's break into groups"? From classroom discussions to workplace think tanks, gathering into groups to generate ideas is common practice. These forced get-togethers are intended to encourage creativity and unique thought, but they can actually do the opposite.
More often than not, group brainstorming is annoying rather than encouraging, and these group sessions can actually be detrimental to your productivity. Getting together harms your thought process by stifling your voice, decreasing your motivation, and creating apprehension.
Counter these negative effects by adjusting your group-oriented behavior when faced with the following factors.
Politeness is a key reason brainstorming fails. When one member of the group speaks, everyone else remains quiet so they can express their ideas. That silent waiting period, however, kills your input.
As you listen to another person, you dismiss your own great ideas—or you forget them entirely. Hearing others' ideas can lead you to feel as though your ideas don't need to be shared, causing you to stifle your creativity. When brainstorming on your own, there's no limit to how many ideas you can bring to light.
Thinking in a group also tends to generate more laziness than creativity. Remember all those group projects in high school? More often than not, one member of the group ended up taking on the entire workload while everyone else slacked off.
Similarly, in brainstorming sessions, group members assume that someone will offer enough ideas to suffice. Bringing people together to work in a group encourages individuals to produce as little as one-third of their normal effort. However, when forced to work individually, people ramped up the productivity—all due to the fact that they were responsible for their own fate.
Brainstorming sessions are supposed to encourage the exchange of ideas. They're meetings of the minds, with no criticism or evaluation of what's shared. Yet researchers disagree with this: individuals feel as though they're being judged constantly in these groups.
Presenting ideas in front of others makes us apprehensive, no matter the setting. We worry that our input will be silently critiqued, and that our ideas won't measure up against others.
Thinking alone, on the other hand, allows our brains to generate ideas freely. Whereas groups constrict us, causing us to limit our shared ideas to only those that we believe will succeed, solo brainstorming allows us to explore every idea—no matter how silly or unlikely.
So, when you feel like bouncing ideas around with friends, spend some time brainstorming alone first. You'll generate more ideas, ramp up your productivity, and avoid apprehension. Who knows, you might even come up with a few mind hacks of your own!