Someone asked during a recent strategic thinking workshop asked about the optimum size for a brainstorming group.
He was specifically interested in what size of group would maximize the creative thinking and number of new ideas from participants.
Similar to the post about the math behind brainstorming new product ideas, we use a loose formula to figure out how big a creative thinking group should be.
What’s the Right Size for a Brainstorming Group?
In any brainstorming group we try to account for:
- Having enough people so each of the three strategic thinking perspectives is represented (front line, functional, and creative thinkers)
- Not having too many participants in order to avoid people sitting back and not actively brainstorming new ideas
- Sufficient participants to fully exploit the strategic thinking exercise we’re using to generate the expected number of ideas
Put all these together, and the right size for a brainstorming group usually winds up between two or three people on the low side and eight to ten people on the high side.
The lower number works when participants are especially diverse and individually adept at multiple strategic thinking perspectives. The high side number usually comes into play when having a group any larger creates situations where too many people are listening to one person at a time come up with ideas.
One exception to the upper end number is if you are using an exercise where multiple people can actively share ideas simultaneously (as our online collaboration platforms allows participants to do). In those cases, we can have many more people brainstorming simultaneously on a topic.
If there are more than eight to ten people, that’s when we start managing the group size through smaller groups. These groups can be working on identical or related parts of an exercise simultaneously.
Creative Thinking Is the the Solution
Ultimately, we design a Brainzooming creative thinking session to balance between maximizing each individual’s time to contribute ideas with the opportunity to hear other people sharing ideas as an additional source of creative thinking inspiration.
Having written it all out, this sounds like it may be a differential equation-type question. Since I stopped pursuing a math minor in the midst of differential equations class, this loose multi-equation approach is as complicated as we get with this brainstorming math! – Mike Brown