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Individual and Group Brainstorming: Does the Question Matter?

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posted on 21.07.2015, 00:00 by Olga Goldenberg
One goal of this research is to test whether the kind of question that is used to prompt brainstorming differentially affects individual and group idea generation performance. More specifically, I examined if questions (prompts) that require groups to generate alternate uses for common objects (e.g., other uses for cars) foster more benefits from collaborative ideation than questions to improve an object, place, or process (e.g., ways to improve cars). It was also predicted that the amount of fixation and prior thought on the topic (idea pre-formation) would mediate the relationship between prompt and performance. These hypotheses were tested in a series of three experiments using electronic idea exchanges to minimize other obstacles to group productivity. Participants generated ideas using alternate uses or improvements prompts for the same topic (cars) (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2, timing of exposure to others’ ideas (early, late, or none) was varied. In Experiment 3, participants brainstormed in response to one of the two prompts in either an interactive group setting (exchanging ideas with others) or individually (no idea sharing). The results of all three experiments showed that alternate uses and improvements prompts indeed differentially affect ideational performance in terms of both idea quantity and quality. The results were also consistent with the well documented “process loss” (Larson, 2010; Mullen, Johnson, & Salas, 1995) on the improvements prompt, but the gap between interacting and nominal groups was closed on the alternate uses prompt. However, the mediating roles of fixation and idea pre-formation were not supported.



Wiley, Jennifer



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University of Illinois at Chicago

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Larson, Jr., James R. Skitka, Linda J. Stahl, Tomas Tindale, R. Scott

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