“Sharing your brain” can actually reduce the quality of problem solving.
We often hear that more brains work better than one. In my creativity studies, we also learn that it is fostered through relationships and interdependencies with others. Yet there are some pitfalls to be aware of.
We often work in teams and pick each others’ brains, gathering experience and expertise. It is almost a bit strange that we haven’t been equally informed about the downsides. Many of them happen without us being particularly aware of them.
Mark the term “groupthink”. It all comes down to how social aspects influence opinions and ideas:
1. No objection to the consensus in the group
When we work together, we can be “swayed” by the overall opinion, either because it is more comfortable to agree or simply because of our own in-built human “herd behaviour”.
2. Social loafing
It is easier to lessen your effort when you are a team, assuming that others contribute more than you do.
3. Fear of negative feedback
Brainstorming is often designed to share ideas ad hoc and face-to-face. Either on a conscious or an unconscious level, we might adjust and sensor our input. We might even decide not to share them.
4. Production blocking
Thoughts and useful input can be lost in a social setting where others are presenting their ideas at the same time, or whilst you are trying to put your own thoughts in system and to make sense of them when others brainstorm out loud. Thoughts can also be influenced and blended together with what others in the group contribute with, making it lose its “originality”.
If you sometimes take part in or organise brain storming sessions or team work, it can be useful to be aware of this. Research shows that anonymous brainstorming can be more effective, but it is also important not to forget that social influences can generate much good. It is still widely used – often with great results – but research also shows that it might come down to the complexity of finding the right combination of team member personalities, diversity and/or behaviour.
You can read more about these “brainy” creativity insights in this academic journal: