Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Power of Dissent

The only way to maximize group creativity is to encourage a candid discussion of mistakes. We can only get it right when we talk about what we got wrong. In a study that asked, "how can traffic congestion be reduced in the San Francisco Bay Area?" brainstorming groups slightly outperformed groups given no instructions. However, people in the debate condition generated nearly 25% more ideas.

After the groups disbanded, people in the minimal and brainstorming conditions produced, on average, 2 additional ideas. Those in the debate condition produced more than 7. Debate and criticism don’t inhibit ideas, but rather stimulate them relative to every other condition.

Beginning a group session with a moment of dissent – even when the dissent is wrong – can dramatically expand creative potential. The power of dissent is really about the power of surprise. Plussing” allows people to improve ideas without using harsh or judgmental language: Whenever work is criticized, the criticism should contain a plus, a new idea that builds on the flaws in a productive manner.

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