Brain power

How the right people are key to successful brainstorming

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Brainstorming is a staple of the modern workplace, but success rates vary considerably. New research1 from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business highlights the importance of getting the right people involved to ensure that you get the best results.

The paper suggests that not all conversations are created equally, and that the best conversations tend to have just the right mix of people in them to cultivate ideas well.

The researchers conducted an experiment during a startup bootcamp in India, with participants paired up and instructed to have a conversation about the Indian wedding industry. Each participant also took a Big Five personality test to rate them across the five dimensions of personality, but the researchers were especially interested in openness and extroversion, which the team believe would predispose the individual to creativity, and if an extrovert was paired with an open minded person, great things might result.

The creative map

As the couples began to talk and brainstorm, it was evident that their ideas for the wedding sector were wide and varied. The average participant came up with nearly 5 new ideas, each of which were anonymously rated by a combination of their fellow participants and consumers, with the ratings according to things such as novelty, business value and likelihood of purchasing.

But did personality matter? The data suggests that both open and closed individuals typically generated the same number of ideas of broadly equal quality. What was interesting however was when an open person was paired with an extroverted person, the pair did indeed punch above their weight, generating more ideas, and with the ideas they generated rated up to 20% higher than the norm.

“What we think happens is an extroverted person is going to say a lot of relevant and irrelevant things, a lot of that is probably going to be useless, but some will be useful,” the researchers say. “If the person is open, they will take in the good and the bad and potentially find ways to recombine them to generate a great idea.”

Openness appears to be key, as those with a closed mind didn’t benefit from being paired with either extroverted or introverted partners. Interestingly however, pairings of introverts and open individuals seemed to perform worst of all, with the ideas generated by these pairs rated 25% lower on average.

The authors argue that this is because introverted people tend to be more analytical, and are therefore less likely to share information with others, and this paucity of feedback can cause the open individual to doubt their own ideas.

Suffice to say, the research did only involve teams of two, and so it’s hard to say whether similar results will emerge when the size of the teams increase. The findings also purely cover the brainstorming phase, and previous work has examined the success of different pairings in terms of implementing the ideas that are generated.

Nonetheless, if you want to develop good ideas from such small teams, it may pay you to consider the personalities of those you put together.

Article source: How The Right People Are Key To Successful Brainstorming.


  1. Hasan, S., & Koning, R. (2019). Conversations and idea generation: Evidence from a field experiment. Research Policy, 48(9), 103811.
Rate this post

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

Related Articles

Back to top button