22 February 2012

More on brainstorming

MIT Building 20
Another piece, this time by Jonah Lehrer, that casts doubt on the effectiveness of brainstorms for idea generation. One of the points he misses, although he talks about the productive strengths of collocated interdisciplinary teams, is that brainstorms are often a microcosm of those teams, bringing together  people who work together, are comfortable with one another and share a set of goals, in many cases with clients or specialist outsiders who bring in new perspectives. (He cites a nice alternative analysis to the business and technology studies of team work that are usually quoted: sociologist, Brian Uzzi, found an increased likelihood of success for broadway musicals if they are created by teams who have worked successfully together before; with even greater chances of success if the team also includes the stimulus of new people.) So the point is not that brainstorms don't work, but that brainstorms as an isolated technique don't work.

Lehrer's article includes a lengthy description of Building 20 at MIT (pictured above), a legendarily uncomfortable but equally legendarily productive, temporary structure, that housed and serendipitously brought together a wide ranging group of scientists and technologists (including, incidentally, Noam Chomsky and Amar Bose). I work in a 1940s temporary structure (originally a prosthesis centre for injured WW2 airmen), with all that that entails for comfort, at least in Winter. I will keep Building 20 in mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment