Brainstorming works best in less specialized efforts, says Management Insights study

December 10, 2009

Applying brainstorming techniques to new product development works best when the collaboration employs participants from varied specialties gathering to develop a less complex product, according to the Management Insights feature in the current issue of Management Science, the flagship journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®).

When new products will be highly technical, a better way to develop them is for specialists to do their work in private and collaborate through 'nominal' groups, the study says.

"The Effects of Problem Structure and Team Diversity on Brainstorming Effectiveness" is by Stylianos Kavadias of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Svenja C. Sommer of HEC Paris.

Management Insights, a regular feature of the journal, is a digest of important research in business, management, operations research, and management science. It appears in every issue of the monthly journal.

Since the 1950s, the effectiveness of brainstorming has been widely debated. While some researchers and practitioners consider it the standard idea generation and problem solving method in organizations, part of the social science literature has argued in favor of nominal groups, in which the same number of individuals generate solutions in isolation.

The authors revisit this debate and explore the implications that the underlying problem structure and the team diversity have on the quality of the best solution as obtained by the different group configurations.

They conclude that nominal groups perform better in specialized problems, even when the factors that affect the solution quality exhibit complex interactions (problem complexity). In cross-functional problems, the brainstorming group exploits the competence diversity of its participants to attain better solutions.
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The current issue of Management Insights is available at http://mansci.journal.informs.org/cgi/reprint/55/12/iv. The full papers associated with the Insights are available to Management Science subscribers. Individual papers can be purchased at http://institutions.informs.org. Additional issues of Management Insights can be accessed at http://www.informs.org/site/ManSci/index.php?c=11&kat=Manawgement+Insights.

The other Insights in the current issue are: INFORMS journals are strongly cited in Journal Citation Reports, an industry source. In the JCR subject category "operations research and management science," Management Science ranks in the top 10.

The special MBA issue published by BusinessWeek includes Management Science and three other INFORMS journals in its list of 20 top academic journals that are used to evaluate business school programs. Financial Times includes Management Science and four other INFORMS journals in its list of academic journals used to evaluate MBA programs.

About INFORMS

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) is an international scientific society with 10,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, financial engineering, and telecommunications. The INFORMS website is www.informs.org. More information about operations research is at www.scienceofbetter.org.

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

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