We often use teams to come up with creative insights to generate unique ideas, to brainstorm. What is your intuition? How would a team fare in its brainstorming performance compared to the same number of individuals working independently? So to clarify, I can get a team of four and ask them to brainstorm or I can get a group of four people, put them in separate rooms and ask them to brainstorm independently. Who would come up with a greater number of ideas and ideas of better quality? The team or the individuals working independently? The reality is that teams stand no chance in brainstorming, compared to the same number of individuals working independently. This table here documents a very typical pattern of results, where you can see that individuals working independently come up with more than two and a half times the number of ideas and nearly three times the number or percentage of good ideas, as evaluated by independent experts. Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at the University of Psychology in London, summarized it very succinctly. He says the evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups. So why is it that teams so consistently underperform the same number of individuals working on a brainstorming task? One of the most straightforward and somewhat trivial explanations Is that of production blocking. In a team meeting, we need to take turns to speak, and that naturally reduces the number of ideas each one of us can communicate. Somebody else's speaking can prove to be distracting, and interfere with my own thinking. Another key problem is evaluation apprehension. In brainstorming meetings people are often implicitly instructed not to evaluate or criticize one another's ideas. But in spite of that we're often concerned that people will judge us by the quality of our ideas and that fear of judgement, fear of negative evaluation leads us to not share some of our ideas. And in fact, research shows that that fear of evaluation often leads us to withhold and not discuss some of our most original, most creative ideas. Another detrimental dynamic that we're seeing in team's brainstorming Is the dynamic of anchoring. Recall our discussion of influence in course three. We talked about anchoring as a very powerful influence tactic. The idea here is that when we are given a piece of information we're only incrementally just off of that piece of information. So in the team brainstorming meeting, I can be subconsciously influenced by the ideas my teammates are communicating. And as a result, my ideas are likely to be much more similar to their ideas, which you can see in the aggregate reduces a diversity of ideas our team generates as a whole. It's interesting but, some consulting companies out there advised companies to use the yes and technique in brainstorming. The idea of that technique is after a teammate spoke, I would start my sentence with yes and. And the logic behind this is that by using yes and I'm less likely to regress to negative evaluation. Or to critiquing somebody's idea, which is very helpful to stimulate a brainstorming session. But unfortunately that phrase yes and also pushes us to come up with ideas that are more similar to those of our teammates, and as a result, again, collectively reduces the diversity of ideas we can generate as a group. There's also this pervasive problem of social loafing, which we discussed just last week. Where in in any task we just don't work as hard in team setting compared to how hard we would work individually. We expect somebody else to pick up the slack in a team. What's particularly worrisome about these dynamics is that teams are complete oblivious to their bad performance in brainstorming. Research by Paul Paulus and colleagues shows that when asked, teams believe they've done spectacularly well on brainstorming, while in reality they're not even close. So you have this peculiar effect of the illusion of group productivity when it comes to creative output. So, one of the most effective approaches you can take to stimulate better creative output, better ideas from your teammates is you want to solicit creative ideas from teammates individually before the meeting. Via emails, face-to-face meetings, or surveys. If that is not possible, at least ask your teammates to think individually about their ideas for a couple of minutes and write them down on a piece of paper before opening a broader discussion. Structurally one of the most effective ways to generate better creative output in your team is to use the nominal group technique. You would start by asking each participant to work alone and write down his or her individual ideas first. Then, each participant would present his or her ideas and would write them down on the board. At this point, no discussion is allowed until all ideas are on the board. After all ideas have been presented, you will conduct an open discussion for clarification purposes only. So you could clarify the ideas, but no evaluative comments are allowed. So you can not talk about whether it's a good idea or bad idea, is it feasible or not feasible. And then you would ask the teammates to vote by secret private vote to rank-order the ideas. The secret ballot here makes individual evaluations confidential. And this is really important because any type of a public vote can activate social proof. But the pressure to conform to the majority. Recall our discussion of influence in course three once again. A public vote might push me to vote for those ideas that other people find creative. Sometime ago,IDEO, one of the leading design firms headquartered in California circulated the video with brainstorming processes, citing them as being particularly effective. Now the process was very similar to a nominal group technique in the first three step, but in the final step, each person, each teammate would get a fixed number of stickers or post-its, and they would post them next to the ideas on the board that they liked the most. Again, be careful because that's an equivalent of a public vote, where subconsciously I may be influenced by what other people are good ideas. I may put my sticker next to those ideas that already have a lot of stickers. Let me give you another very practical piece of advice. As to how you can quickly and effectively improve the brainstorming performance of your team. Recall that teams are not very much aware of their bad performance in brainstorming and creative sessions. One of the reasons for this is that they lack a proper benchmark, that baseline for performance. So use a part of your session to create that benchmark, that baseline. Start by setting a tight timeline for a brainstorming session, say ten minutes. And then after the first ten minutes, challenge your team to double its performance in the next ten minutes in terms of the number of ideas generated. Research by Lee Thompson shows that in the second ten minutes 93% of teams increase their per person productivity and that productivity goes up by an average of 57%.