My article about group methods for ideation, including focus groups and brainstorming was published in the May issue of the Journal of Product Innovation and Management. Regular readers of this (irregular) blog will know the key findings about the use of groups to generate innovative ideas. Individual interviews with users as suggested by Abbie Griffin in “Voice of the Customer” will outperform group methods (even adjusted for time). Compared to the group brainstorming, individual ideation will generate:
- More ideas,
- Better ideas on average, and
- The most innovative ideas. (Trifecta!)
The full paper is here: Using focus groups and brainstorming for user ideas.
Osborn introduced Brainstorming in a book in 1957, claiming that he had empirical evidence that a group brainstorming by his four key rules—(1) criticism not welcome; (2) freewheeling welcome; (3) quantity of ideas welcome; and (4) combining/improving ideas welcome—could produce twice as many ideas as individuals brainstorming alone and also produce better ideas.
However within a year, Taylor et al. (1958) conducted experiments, finding that the combined results of individual brainstorming outperformed groups in terms of the number, quality, and uniqueness of the ideas generated. As noted, subsequent research has strongly supported the inferiority of group methods.
Why then are brainstorming and focus groups still so widely used for product innovation ideas? (That question is the second half of the paper…)