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How valuable is brainstorming?

In Quirky, Melissa A. Schilling focuses on eight “breakthrough innovators”: Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Dean Jamen, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs. While doing so, she draws upon an abundance of recent research. However different these eight geniuses may be in most respects, all of them (to varying degree) manifest pure creativity and originality, relentless (indeed tenacious) effort and persistence, and unique situational advantage. They also demonstrate what Schilling characterizes as “a marked sense of separateness, perceiving themselves as different or disconnected from the crowd.”

Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — with regard to the value of brainstorming sessions. According to some sources Schilling cites, “brainstorming groups diminish creative outcomes because we lose [focus on our] ideas when others are talking, and we do not express our most novel ideas because we worry about what others will think.”

Other studies suggest that value varies according to the given objective: “group selection (rather than generation of ideas also reduces novelty as people tend to prefer and select ideas hat are feasible over those that are original.”

Breakthrough innovators are advocates of ideas that challenge the status quo. These geniuses embrace Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction.” As Schilling suggests, participants in brainstorming sessions tend to support new ideas that more practical, less “dangerous,” whereas the breakthrough innovators are not only willing but eager to support new ideas “even if they have a high likelihood of failure.”

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Melissa A. Schilling is the Herzog Family Professor of Management at New York University Stern School of Business. She received her Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in strategic management from the University of Washington. Professor Schilling’s research focuses on innovation and strategy in high technology industries such as smartphones, video games, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, electric vehicles, and renewable energies.

To learn more about her and her brilliant work, please click here.

PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group is the publisher of Quirky: The Remarkable Story of the Traits, Foibles, and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World (February 2018).

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