UFO Conjecture(s)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Brainstorming or Group Think?

The current New Yorker [1/30/12] has an article about "brainstorming" and what is needed to provide meaningful thought from groups (and individuals).

The article is by Jonah Lehrer.

It's a must-read for Kevin Randle's "Dream Team" and Chris Aubeck's Magoniax people.

(And we think some of our participants, at this blog, would do well to peruse it.)

Click HERE to access the article, and let us know what you think...


  • Unfortunately, the New Yorker article referenced is behind a "paywall," and only available to paid subscribers, although there is a brief abstract of the article at the link included in the blog post.

    Alternatively, it might also be pertinent (and free!) to read the following recent NY Times parallel opinion piece by Susan Cain:

    "The Rise of the New Groupthink":


    And some letters to the editor responding to Cain's article:

    "The Key to Creativity: Solitude or Teams?"


    I would say both dynamics, or processes, of "brainstorming," and individual or "isolated" creativity, have both their benefits and drawbacks, depending on how they are used and balanced against each other.

    It seems the issue of either too much or too little feedback can be both a problem and potential benefit, depending on the matter under consideration, and how they are selectively applied, IMHO.

    By Blogger steve sawyer, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • I rather enjoyed the article and would have read more if not for the 'paywall.'

    Brainstorming would seem to be more of a team-building exercise where folk are focused on positives and criticising colleagues is suspended. According to the article, it's just great for getting along and not so good for generating ideas.

    An aspect I've read about is how self-evaluation of brainstorming can be inaccurate. Some would describe their own contribution as significant and creative. This would be disputed by others. Another factor is the reserve of personality-types - some shy, some extrovert etc.

    The incompetence of (some) participants is also only apparent to the competent.

    "People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd."

    Kruger J, Dunning D. Unskilled
    and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated
    self-assessments. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999


    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Sorry about the "paywall."

    We've accessed the whole article, not using our New Yorker subscription account.

    Maybe our computers have cookies that tell the New Yorker site who we are. I dunno.

    That said, I suggest Steve Sawyer get his hands on the magazine and the article.

    It will clarify his thinking and the concept(s) we endorse.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • It's a fascinating subject. The negative results of group think are pretty serious as we've all seen. I don't think there's any shortage of creativity, it's competence and ethics that are lacking.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Kandinsky and Frank:

    The New Yorker blurb about Jonah Lehrer's piece tells readers that he, Lehrer, has three books in the offing, two of them being "How We Decide" and a new one forthcoming in March -- "Imagine: How Creativity Works."

    Real intellectuals will get their hands on one or both of those books and read them, rather than scooting all over the internet and Google, thinking they are enlightened beings by doing so...ahem Steve Sawyer.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • If I'm interested in a particular subject, I think it's a better strategy to cast about for different sources on the subject rather than rely on one.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • I agree Frank, and my screed was not directed at you.

    But those who think that the Internet/Google is sufficient to enlighten them are just being stupid.

    In-depth tomes are a must for the truly intellectual person.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Haha, well the internet is a tool but it is a great tool. It all depends on how you use it. I certainly like the results I've gotten from it. There's a little bit more available on Lehrer's How We Decide book. I've certainly formed some preliminary opinions on it. Next time I'm at the book shop, I'll take a closer look.

    The really bright guys and gals in any field generally reveal themselves through books that are worth reading. I'm not in the camp that thinks that just because someone has read a book or two on a given subject necessarily means much. Like anything else, there's genuine quality and there's product.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Frank...

    You marketing guys are more concerned with product than the essence of the product.

    That's why you like the internet so much: it's the gloss, the sparkle that attracts.

    I'd much rather associate with a book-reader than a Google-addict.

    Book reading requires an effort.

    Googling is for the mentally lazy, the superficial intellectual.

    Hey, I'm getting, as maybe you are also, a slew of aphorisms via a Facebook "friend" who thinks a group of platitudes, offered again and again, are indications of smartness or wisdom.

    It's just ego and hubris, and we get here comments that try to make us believe the commenter is smart and thoughtful without the quality that we seek; it's a product, and we don't fall for it, marketing aside.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Well I'm no intellectual and I prefer to think of myself as being efficient rather than lazy. ;O)

    I used to hit bookstores and libraries all the time and rarely came out empty handed but the world has changed.

    I did read the first chapter of the How We Decide book and would be happy to discuss it at length. Like I said before, it's a fascinating subject. I've got 30 years of personal experience playing a high-speed competitive sport, not at the pro level of course, but at a pretty solid level against some very good players.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Frank:

    You are an inherently brilliant guy.

    But I have no idea how competitive sports pertains.

    I rag on our local media sport guys who are a nice lot, just a little punchy, and not connected to the woes of the world.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

  • Lehrer writes about decision making and sports in the first chapter of How We Decide.


    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, January 29, 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home