There was this great infocomic a few years ago that talked about the virtues of online brainstorming. Although there are lots of benefits that we’ve discussed in our blog before (transparent processes, lower program costs, etc), this comic highlighted two of my favorite benefits that results from online brainstorming: avoiding groupthink and empowering introverts. Let’s dig into why each of these is possible.
Avoiding Groupthink. When brainstorming and collaborative ideation happens in a physical location, it trends towards polite agreement or staying with the ideas that occur in that small frame of time and receive the most group consensus. When you invite everyone to do their homework ahead of time and share ideas on their own, you sidestep the problem of ideas that gain the most immediate traction by the loudest voices. All ideas are able to exist simultaneously, independent of one another and then later can receive honest feedback, meaningful connections and equitable opinions. Ideas come first, consensus can come later.
Empowering Introverts. There are lots of studies and articles and books about the virtues of introverts – they’re excellent listeners, observers, happily independent. But many introverts find it difficult to speak up in a room (particularly when a louder, extroverted personality feels so comfortable working the room). For that reason, introverts find online ideation freeing: they can take the time to thoughtfully craft and share their idea and it arrives at the same volume and speed as the ideas of extroverts. It’s far more likely that an introvert’s voice will be shared (and heard) when it is in this online context.
This is something that NYU noticed when they started engaging the voices of their 4,000 administrators in order to inform their representatives to the University Senate about the strategic initiatives that mattered to them. Not only did the AMC note nearly 100% participation from their staff in their online portal, but they also noted a marked increase to in person meetings as well and perhaps most importantly:
“The best thing about IdeaScale is that we’re hearing from individuals that we had never heard from previously and we’re able to advocate for ideas by clearly articulating the support they have”
-Mike McCaw, Chairperson of the NYU Administrative Management Council