Brainstorming is a generating tool, an approach invented by Alex Osborn as a set of guidelines to generate a creative collaboration in a group to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by the group. People can think freely and generate spontaneous insights in a context where the ideas are not criticised or evaluated. It is important to not confuse it with group discussion where usually it is declared that all ideas are welcome.
It is useful because usually we are not used to expressing our opinions even if this attitude is largely requested by the job market.
The multidisciplinary details are coming from social sciences, cognitive research, psychology, marketing.
https://www.mindtools.com/brainstm.html http://www.businessballs.com/brainstorming.htm www.brainstorming.co.uk/
Description Osborn 16 set up four basic rules for a brainstorming session:
1. Criticism is not permitted- judgement of ideas is not out loud 2. Free-wheeling is welcome – weird, strange and wild ideas are asked to emerge – participants should not be afraid to express their thoughts 3. Quantity is required – more and more ideas should be generated 4. Combinations and improvements are good – ideas of others could be improved, changed and revised in order to generate a new idea
A possible brainstorming process:
1. Define and agree on a clear objective. 2. Set up a time limit 3. Categorise and combine the ideas 4. Assess and analyse the effects and results 5. Create a priority and rank list if appropriate 6. Agree to a proposed action and timescale 7. Control and monitor the follow-up
16 Osborn, A. F., Applied Imagination. Scribner 1979
How to To be more effective during a brainstorming session, it is possible to use the post-it notes and the trigger method. During brainstorming sessions, many options can come to mind very quickly, and this can become an obstacle. During a group session, if only one person is writing down ideas, it could be possible to lose some interesting ideas or to slow down the free process. A way to deal with this is to let all participants use Post-it notes to collect ideas. A moderator might help to capture the ideas or to sort them in some way. Participants write down their ideas – one idea per Post-it note, then they say out loud their idea and then place it on the flip-chart paper. By saying ideas out loud, it is possible to foster the creativity of others in revising, changing and adapting an idea coming from another participant.
Trigger Method17 The method works perfectly together with classic brainstorming. The procedure is:
- Read out a statement of the problem to a group of participants - Ask each participant to record idea in silence (five minutes are enough) - All participants, one by one, are asked to read their ideas to the rest of the group - The ideas are discussed for about 10 minutes with the objective to develop variations and adaptation of the ideas - The procedure continues until all ideas have been discussed
- Brainstorming should address only a specific question because the sessions addressing multiple questions are inefficient. - Use Post-it notes to manage the process - Use trigger method to manage the group - One moderator is necessary to set up the timing - For larger groups, it is better to have more than one moderator
17 Tony Proctor, Creative Problem Solving for managers, Routledge 2010
METHODOLOGY: Collaborative Problem Solving
Collaborative Problem Solving is the capacity of an individual to effectively engage in a process whereby two or more agents attempt to solve a problem by sharing the understanding and effort required to come to a solution and pooling their knowledge, skills and efforts to reach that solution 18(OECD, 2015). It is useful because:
● Collaborative problem-solving is listed by OECD as one of the critical and necessary skill across educational settings and in the workforce ● Collaborative problem solving is rarely taught in schools even if it could reinforce knowledge and improve attainment.
The multidisciplinary details are coming from Psychology, Pedagogy and Sociology.
Links www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/Draft%20PISA%202015%20Collaborative%20Problem%20Solving%20Fra mework%20.pdf http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/solved-making-case-collaborative-problem-solving https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/researchcenter/collaborative_problem_solving.pdf
Collaborative problem-solving is an area of growing interest for those looking at the changing nature of both the workplace and national labour markets, as demonstrated by the OECD’s inclusion of it in their 2015 international education PISA survey (results released in 2016 and later in 2017).
Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is composed of two main elements: the collaborative, sharing, or social aspects coupled with the knowledge or cognitive aspects. Thus, the primary distinction between individual problem solving and collaborative problem solving is the social component19 .
In collaborative problem solving, there is a group goal that needs to be achieved. The solution requires problem solving, team members contribute to the solution, and there is some foundation for evaluating whether the group goal has been achieved. Moreover, the activities of the team members are interdependent, with various roles, so that a single person cannot solve the group goal alone. The collaborative activities therefore require communication, coordination, and cooperation.
The skills required for collaborative problem solving by OECD are included in the following Matrix:
(A) Exploring and understanding 1) Establishing and maintaining shared understanding
A1) Discovering perspectives and abilities of team members (A2) Discovering the type of collaborative interaction to solve the problem, along with goals (A3) Understanding roles to solve the problem
(2) Taking appropriate action to solve the problem (3) Establishing and maintaining team organisation
B) Representing and formulating
(B1) Building a shared representation and negotiating (B2) Identifying and describing tasks to be completed (B3) Describe roles and team organisation (communication protocol/rules of engagement)
18 OECD (2015) ‘Draft Collaborative Problem Solving Framework.’ Paris: OECD. 19 NCES, Collaborative Problem Solving: Considerations for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2017
(C) Planning and executing
(D) Monitoring and reflecting
the meaning of the problem (common ground) (C1) Communicating with team members about the actions to be/being performed (C2) Enacting plans (C3) Following rules of engagement, (e.g. prompting other team members to perform their tasks)
(D1) Monitoring and repairing the shared understanding (D2) Monitoring results of actions and evaluating success in solving the problem (D3) Monitoring, providing feedback and adapting the team organisation and roles
How to During the design of a collaborative problem-solving workshop/activity, let’s think about making changes20 in terms of three different areas: - The tasks design: o Carefully consider what knowledge is being introduced or applied. o Balance interdependence with individual accountability. o Structure task to promote right behaviours (e.g., reflection time, roles). - The teaching style: o Hint and ask pertinent questions, without giving the answer. o Monitor the group and change if there is a will or handpick members. o Balance support and freedom. o Be patient: it may take time to embed - Leadership support o Give staff time to design, embed and improve. o Familiarise with research, be an advocate externally (e.g., Ofsted, parents). o Monitor, evaluate progress and intervene as necessary. Implementation – Tips ● It is suggested to give attention, during the composition of the class or groups, to ensure heterogeneous participants (e.g. in terms of number, gender distribution, ethnicity) ● Do not underestimate the group-working skills that should take time to be developed ● While selecting the tasks to be done in group, it is important to select a challenging task to justify a collaborative work in group ● Take care to the role of the teacher to facilitate and monitor the process by leaving the right place to the independent group-building dynamic ● While designing the workshop, take into account to balance carefully individual and collaborative activities
20 Rose Luckin, Ed Baines, Mutlu Cukurova and Wayne Holmes with Michael Mann, Solved! Making the case for collaborative problem-solving, NESTA 2017
APPROACH: Work in Group and Idea Generation
by dr. Peppino Franco (EURO-NET)
An entrepreneur cannot ignore the need to work in a team to achieve and improve productivity. In order to work effectively in a group it is necessary to know how to get out from individual points of view and to create the room for the proposition coming from others and to develop an approach that is as farsighted, collaborative and directed to the achievement of common objectives.
A flexible and creative approach is not favoured by rigid and excessively formal environments: many contexts are anachronistic and still too focused on individual performance. This obviously favours a climate of competitiveness between the professionals in the same working environment, despite having common objectives.
In order to work and live functionally, each group must keep in mind several elements that appear essential to build a productive and efficient work group: • an open and constructive relational climate • the ability to listen actively through processes of involvement and participation • outline objectives in a clear and shared way • recognition of the skills of collaborators • the creation of conditions for collective cooperation • the solicitation of a creative and flexible approach.
It is possible to define a work group as "a group of people who perceive themselves as a collective entity, who interact and cooperate on an ongoing basis, aware of the mutual need for the achievement of certain stated and shared objectives, which they define internally, roles, structures, norms and rules that guide the behaviour of each member "21 .
The use of teamwork performs various functions within organizations: • promotes commitment and motivates members • facilitates understanding and adherence to organizational purposes • helps to simplify and streamline the structure • makes cooperative learning and the construction of shared knowledge possible. • although each working group has unique and peculiar characteristics, each of them is defined by some recurring structures: - communication structure, which concerns the communicative exchanges that take place within the group; - power structure, which defines the type of power that is exercised within the group; - status and role structure, which defines the value that the group and the organization attributes to certain internal positions and the type of expectations relating to the behaviours that a person holding a certain role should hold; - emotional structure, which has to do with relationships within the group and more precisely with the preferences between the various members.
A working group is increasingly asked to tackle and resolve very complex issues, for which a variety of skills and knowledge are required22 .
21 Lucarelli G., Il gruppo al lavoro. Strategie e consigli per migliorare le performance e la creatività del vostro gruppo, FrancoAngeli 2010 22 Malaguti D., Fare squadra. Psicologia dei gruppi di lavoro, Il Mulino 2018.
The performance of a group can be conditioned by a multiplicity of complex and interrelated factors, starting from the composition of the group itself (its homogeneity rather than heterogeneity and its size), the communication and relational methods or the type of participation and by the type of decision-making strategies implemented, by the interdependence in the tasks, roles and objectives assigned, and finally, by the cultural context, that is, by the organizational culture.
Factors that can hinder teamwork In fact, working groups can also fail to achieve the goal for which they were formed: what often leads to the abandonment of the group by its members, the frustration generated when initial expectations turn out to be unrealistic. Often mismanagement of the group can lead to wanting to do too many things at the same time and too quickly, leading the group to an exhausting race towards achieving results in the shortest possible time. This is why it is important that expectations are realistic and achievable and that each member is discouraged from leaving the group in case of difficulty or unexpected obstacles. Three basic ingredients are required for effective teamwork: 1. cooperation, 2. trust, 3. cohesion.
Cooperation occurs when individuals combine their efforts in a systematic way in order to achieve a common goal23 . Trust is another fundamental factor in any social relationship and especially in the working group. It pushes individuals to take risks in the belief that risky choices are followed by favourable responses. In fact, trust in a relationship is created when we expect, without being sure, that the other will make the right decision for us. In this relationship of esteem, reciprocity is essential: trust generates trust and distrust generates more distrust. Emotional cohesion is the sense of union that develops from emotional satisfaction and derives from participation in group activity and from the bonds that are naturally created by sharing in the team particularly intense experiences on an emotional level24 .
Communication and conflicts within the working groups Communication represents a daily and essential component of human life: each of us communicates in a multiplicity of different ways with the people around him, starting from family members to friends to acquaintances up to work colleagues.
It is good to make a distinction between contrast and conflict: - contrast concerns the contents and occurs when two or more people present different points of view to describe and face a certain situation. This type of situation is present in all work groups and indeed, it is an indication of heterogeneity and richness and allows the group to grow and to innovate - conflict, on the contrary, has to do with the other aspect of communication, the one that has to do with the relationship. The conflict, in these cases, emerges when the focus of the discussion is no longer centred on the contents but on who is right and who is wrong, on who wins and who is defeated, on who has the power to decide and who must only obey. Conflict situations within the work group can originate from a multiplicity for different reasons, such as a divergence of objectives, rather than scarce resources or limited, or even a struggle for power, the interdependence of the tasks that the members of the group have to face rather than the presence of highly dysfunctional communication models.
23 Malaguti D., Fare squadra. Psicologia dei gruppi di lavoro, Il Mulino 2018. 24 Lucarelli G., Il gruppo al lavoro. Strategie e consigli per migliorare le performance e la creatività del vostro gruppo, FrancoAngeli 2010
Competitive climates are, in fact, fuelled by scarcity of resources and rewards, by lack of trust among colleagues and by organizational cultures based on punishment, control and conception of man as an individual moved only by his own personal interest and therefore little motivated to assume the goals of the group you work for25 . We are led erroneously to think that conflict is always negative and that it deteriorates group work by producing dysfunctionality and inefficiency; conflicts can be both negative and positive.
Improve communication and conflict management within work groups
First, it is important that each individual member, as well as the group, would develop some skills related to knowing how to listen, to know how to win attention and how to communicate - Active listening: it means getting in tune with the other before opening discussions, understanding what is exposed before proposing or judging. In fact, good listening is characterized by respect and acceptance of the other, by intellectual curiosity and the will to understand and confront each other26 . - Knowing how to win attention: it is the ability to express one's point of view in the best way, so that our interlocutors understand what we want to communicate. To do this, the first step is to identify the topics and aspects that are considered most significant on the topic in question that we want to deal with; it is also necessary that the exposition be short and clear and present only the essential in a simple and understandable language for the listener. - Knowing how to communicate: a group capable of functional communication is a group that will soon become effective and efficient, able to correctly evaluate data and information, make informed choices and learn from their mistakes. - Suggestions to foster dialogue and communication within the group: o establish a collaborative climate that allows everyone to express themselves o present data and not opinions o keep the interventions consistent with the topic in question o criticize the behaviour and not the person o collect everyone's contribution
25 Schein E.H., The corporate culture survival guide, Jossey Bass 1999 26 Trevisan D., Ascolto attivo ed Empatia, FrancoAngeli, Milano 2019