Publications / SAND Report

Improving human effectiveness for extreme-scale problem solving : final report (assessing the effectiveness of electronic brainstorming in an industrial setting)

Davidson, George S.; Dornburg, Courtney S.; Adams, Susan S.; Hendrickson, Stacey M.; Bauer, Travis L.; Forsythe, James C.

An experiment was conducted comparing the effectiveness of individual versus group electronic brainstorming in order to address difficult, real world challenges. While industrial reliance on electronic communications has become ubiquitous, empirical and theoretical understanding of the bounds of its effectiveness have been limited. Previous research using short-term, laboratory experiments have engaged small groups of students in answering questions irrelevant to an industrial setting. The current experiment extends current findings beyond the laboratory to larger groups of real-world employees addressing organization-relevant challenges over the course of four days. Findings are twofold. First, the data demonstrate that (for this design) individuals perform at least as well as groups in producing quantity of electronic ideas, regardless of brainstorming duration. However, when judged with respect to quality along three dimensions (originality, feasibility, and effectiveness), the individuals significantly (p<0.05) out performed the group working together. The theoretical and applied (e.g., cost effectiveness) implications of this finding are discussed. Second, the current experiment yielded several viable solutions to the wickedly difficult problem that was posed.