For as long a I can remember, brainstorming sessions have been a part of the corporate creative process for developing software and information systems. You sit in a room with a team of people (who in the case of interactive systems design usually include business managers, content folks, designers, and developers), and you bounce ideas off the wall. You write on white boards, you scribble flows and page layouts and where you want buttons and pulldowns and graphics or tables.
Different people pop up to add their two cents. You know this scene. I have slugged through many a brainstorming session in my own career, and often wondered if it was as useful as everybody thinks it is.
Now, there's some new thinking on the matter, and the answer is: No. Group sessions do NOT, it turns out, produce better output than simply having individuals come up with ideas (or inventions or designs or whatever) on their own. At least, not as a matter of course.
Read this NYT editorial from Susan Cain: The Rise of the New Groupthink", about the many misconceptions we have on group vs individual creativity. Cain is the author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking," and she makes a strong case for the value of individual creativity.