Ming the Mechanic:
Meetings make us dumber?

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Meetings make us dumber?2007-02-24 14:15
by Flemming Funch

People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests.

Scientists exposed study participants to one brand of soft drink then asked them to think of alternative brands. Alone, they came up with significantly more products than when they were grouped with two others....

The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.
Of course it would greatly depend on how a meeting is run. There are brainstorming formats that certainly would work better in a group than alone. But, I guess, if it is the normal format of a meeting, once something emerges as the theme or focus of the meeting, it would be hard to make it go anywhere else. Which is a good thing, if that's really what you're supposed to work on, but a bad thing if you're trying to generate new or alternative ideas.

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25 Feb 2007 @ 07:35 by Chris Corrigan @ : ...but what about the smart choice?
People may come up with more ideas on their own, but we are not that smart on our own. Choosing the best of these I think means gathering wisdom, and that means generative conversations with other people.

MSNBC falls into a pretty silly trap: more is better? More is smarter? Nuh uh. More is good but getting one right is better.  

25 Feb 2007 @ 15:07 by ming : Choices
I suppose the trick is to find synergy between individuality and group process. Individuals who cultivate their differentness might come up with more and better original ideas on their own. But a group might be better at sorting through such ideas and at connecting ideas from different sources together. At least if it knows how to have a conversation.

So, no big surprise if meetings don't come up with much that is original. And, yes, even if they did, what would count would be whether something useful emerges, whether it comes from one idea or a hundred.  

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