Quiet Chapter 3

NOT BASEBALL

I took too long away from blogging.  I had been forgetting the NOT BASEBALL heading for these posts.

In Chapter 3 Cain argues that many approaches businesses use to increase creativity and collaboration may not actually work.  For instance open spaces increase employee stress, lowered employee productivity and impaired employee memory.  Further, in studies like the Coding War Games, researchers found that having a private space made computer programmers much more productive.

Cain also cites studies that face-to-face brainstorming is less effective than individual brain storming.  And it gets less effective as group size rises.  Psychologists attribute this to three factors.  Some members of a group are content to let the most outspoken have the floor all the time (Social Loafing).  When employees listen to others talk they may not be thinking of ideas themselves (Production Blocking).  Employees may also fear judgment (Evaluation Apprehension).  Evaluation Apprehension appears particularly hard to overcome.  Research suggests than when going along with a group decision the brain sometimes has altered perceptions.  When faced with actors giving the wrong answer to a geometric puzzle participants in a study seemed to actually be convinced the wrong answer was right based on brain activity.  So, employees might not even consciously suppress innovative ideas.  It may happen automatically.

Online brainstorming does seem to work.  It gives people time to think alone and still read others ideas and expand on them.  Another strategy that might work is to mix introverts and extroverts in teams.  Finally many companies now try to give each employee a private space in which to work, but have public areas that inspire informal communication which may lead to idea sharing.  Cain talks about Steve Wozniak (Apple Computer) and his days at HP.  HP brought out donuts and coffee twice a day so that employees could talk- presumably somewhat about what they are doing at work- but gave those employees offices where they could work without distraction at other times.

Interestingly our Math Division may have created good work spaces when the College relocated us to another building.  Part time faculty have a lounge to meet in with cubicles to do private work.  Full time faculty have offices.  The two groups often run into each other in the mail room/copy room.

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