Capitalizing on Diversity

Associations Now has a good article on Brainstorming. The term is very well-known now, but I find in organizations we rarely do it the way it was intended. As the article states, the purpose of brainstorming is to generate LOTS of ideas, on the assumption that you’ll get more good ideas. But to do that, we have to NOT evaluate the ideas as they are being generated. We are a culture of critical thinkers, so this can be hard.

I thought one point in the article was particularly interesting:

One of the central assumptions of group creativity is that groups composed of individuals with diverse expertise and backgrounds will be more creative. Ironically, many studies find that diverse groups can be uncomfortable for some group members and can actually inhibit creativity.

I thought about Frans Johansson’s thesis (in the Medici Effect) that diverse groups are especially useful for innovation. I remember in his keynote at the Great Ideas conference, however, him telling a story of a diverse group that came together to work on some important issues, and that it took them more time to get started because they had to figure out how they were going to work together.

All groups are diverse. Some are clearly more diverse than others, but if you want to take advantage of that diversity, you need to build the capacity for people to work in a diverse environment. It doesn’t happen automatically.