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Brainstorming Debunked
March 5, 2013
Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, or even joyous.
-Paul Hawken
In 1948 Alex Osborne published Your Creative Power, in which he introduced the concept of group brainstorming. The most important rule of brainstorming was the prohibition on negative criticism, which Osborne held nips creativity in the bud.  The concept of brainstorm took off and has been a hugely popular technique worldwide for decades. However, an article in the New Yorker (January 20, 2012), "Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth," cites research which as early as 1958, proved that the technique did not increase the quantity of creative ideas generated.

The first refutation came from Yale researchers who in 1958 set up 12 groups of four undergraduates each and 48 students working by themselves. The groups and individuals were given a series of creative puzzles, and the solo students came up with twice as many ideas as the brainstorming groups. The conclusion was: "Brainstorming didn't unleash the power of the group, but rather made each individual less creative." In a more ambitious research project in 2003 at UC Berkeley, students in groups where criticism and debate were encouraged produced twenty percent more ideas than groups where negativity was not permitted.


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  • The Intentional Teacher
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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Barbara Cody
United States
03/05/2013 11:07 am

How long were the student's working by themselves given to work on the problem vs. how long the groups met? Has anyone tried comparisons with smaller groups vs. individuals?

Marcia Lieberman
United States
03/05/2013 05:55 am

I find myself thinking what, if anything, this comment about group think says, given that we are all careful to be positive and specific about children's ideas and efforts.

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