The Creativity Killer

David Sherwin has a piece in The Atlantic titled The Creativity Killer: Group Discussions

In it Sherwin discusses how many businesses create groups to create new ideas, and how this often fails. The first thing I would note is that creativity cannot be turned on on demand. This is not addressed in the article, but it's an important limitation on such meetings to generate ideas.

Nevertheless, Sherwin does a great job of discussing the best ways to use groups to generate new ideas. The bottom line is that humans are a social species. Thus, it should not be surprising that we are more creative, and most efficiently creative, in a social setting. The problem comes about when we mistake collective action for social action. With collective action, we reach consensus in the way Sherwin discusses. Thus, the best ideas are unlikely to develop. At the other extreme, isoalted individuals do a good job of coming up with ideas, but it is easy to become stuck with the same ideas. Since people are often specialists, their solutions are often narrowly defined to their own area of expertise, as one would expect.

What, then, is the solution? The solution is to avoid collective action and isolated individualism, and to instead foster individualistic social groups. All of Sherwin's examples are variations on this theme. For even better ideas, if one has the time, it is best to allow your team to come up with ideas on their own, meet to discuss them, then go out to work on the ideas, etc., until a set of recommendations can be developed. This takes time, but it is more likely to result in the best solutions.

Increasingly, businesses need to foster creativity. As a creative person myself, I am quite familiar with what creative people need to maximize their creativity. The problems and the solutions may be different, but the culture and environment needed to maximize creativity is the same for all creative people.