Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea

41 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2008 Last revised: 25 Jun 2014

Karan Girotra

INSEAD - Technology and Operations Management

Christian Terwiesch

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Karl T. Ulrich

The Wharton School

Date Written: December 8, 2009

Abstract

In a wide variety of organizational settings, teams generate a number of possible solutions to a problem, and then select a few for further investigation. We examine the effectiveness of two creative problem solving processes for such tasks - one, where the group works together as a team (the team process), and the other where individuals first work alone and then work together (the hybrid process). We define effectiveness as the quality of the best ideas identified by the group. We build theory that relates previously observed group behaviour to four different variables that characterize the creative problem solving process: (1) the average quality of ideas generated, (2) the number of ideas generated, (3) the variance in the quality of ideas generated, and (4) the ability of the group to discern the quality of the ideas. Prior research defines effectiveness as the quality of the average idea, ignoring any differences in variance and in the ability to discern the best ideas. In our experimental set-up, we find that groups employing the hybrid process are able to generate more ideas, to generate better ideas, and to better discern their best ideas compared to teams that rely purely on group work. Moreover, we find that the frequently recommended brainstorming technique of building on each other’s ideas is counter-productive: teams exhibiting such build-up neither create more ideas nor are the ideas that build on previous ideas better.

Keywords: Creativity, Brainstorming, Innovation, Idea Generation, Idea Selection, Team, Group, Individuals

Suggested Citation

Girotra, Karan and Terwiesch, Christian and Ulrich, Karl T., Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea (December 8, 2009). INSEAD Business School Research Paper No. 2009/65/TOM. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1082392 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1082392

Karan Girotra (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Technology and Operations Management ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77 305 Fontainebleau Cedex
France

Christian Terwiesch

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Karl T. Ulrich

The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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