Brainstorming – the time-honored tradition of getting people together in an office in order to free associate – has become standard business practice these days but a new study from Yale University has found that more people does not result in a greater number of solutions. In fact, people who try to solve problems all on their own came up with nearly twice as many ideas as those who tried to brainstorm in groups. However the groups tended to come up with better ideas, particularly those that were encouraged to criticize.
The best approach would be a hybrid of individual thinking that then moves to critique and collaboration. You should start off by working alone, which fosters focused thinking and a greater number of ideas. Then you can start to embrace debate and allow team members to challenge one another’s ideas, which can open up potential solutions and brand new ideas. Research has proven that creativity can actually thrive on conflict as there is less pressure to just conform.
It is also a good idea to change the make-up of the brainstorming team every so often to prevent things from getting stale.