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Bob Sutton has noticed that the Wall Street Journal is reporting research suggesting that individual brainstorming (some have called it brain-writing) is more effective that group brainstorming. I’ve also noticed this viewpoint in the Medici Effect. According to Bob this lopsided view is nonsense and he sets about listing the weaknesses contained in the academic literature. The conclusion: it’s good to do both.
We’ve witness a similar phenomena in collecting stories. People love the group story collection groups because they get to hear their colleagues’ stories which helps them remember their own stories. I often see people scribbling down ideas (come prepared to dump your ideas) that are sparked during the anecdote circle. There’s also a time for collecting stories from individuals. Asking people to recount their experiences around a theme before they attend an anecdote circle has the advantage of giving someone time to record their stories without competing for time in a group. It also primes the person with a range of stories they might tell in the circle. Lastly, an anecdote circle is an excellent stimulus for remembering stories but the remembrance might occur after you’ve left the room. Providing an ability for people to record the stories after the AC is important.