When a group is not a group: The Cognitive Foundation of Group Idea Generation

  • Nagasundaram M
  • Dennis A
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This article argues that a large part of idea-generation behavior in electronic brainstorming (EBS) can be explained by viewing EBS as an individual, cognitive (rather than a social) phenomenon from the human information processing system (IPS) perspective. EBS incorporates a set of structuring mechanisms meant to overcome the limitations of the human IPS. Consequently, a group using an EBS outperforms both verbal brainstorming and nominal groups by operating not as a group but as a collection of individuals who interact with an evolving set of ideas rather than with other individuals. We present a research agenda oriented toward the development of strategies, procedures, and technologies for stimulating idea generation. Based on this agenda, we identify the problem of information overload in EBS; develop a set of strategies for addressing the problem, grounded in human information-processing theory; and formulate a set of propositions for testing the strategies.

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