Millennials and Social Connection: A New Generation of Employee Engagement

As a Millennial who is also passionate about HR, I’ve been intrigued by the amount of attention my generation has received as we have begun entering the workforce.  Many of us are looking for full-time opportunities right out of college, while others of us are testing the waters (so-to-speak) with internships and part-time, entry-level positions.

A routine Google search for “Millennials in the workplace” reveals a seemingly endless supply of articles, most illustrating one overwhelming trend: employers are uneasy about and somewhat dumbfounded by the idea of a Millennial workforce.  The Washington Post projects that Millennials will make up 75 percent of the American workforce by 2025, so employers should probably start getting used to us.

What’s so different about us?  After all, elements of employee engagement are valid for every generation, right?  Yes!  The five elements of employee engagement are, in fact, applicable across all generations.  The core difference, though, resides in how the different generations prioritize each element.

Millennials and Social Connection

According to a Journal of Business Psychology article written by Andrea Hershatter and Molly Epstein, one stark difference between Millennials and other generations is our high need for social connection.

In 2006, Hershatter and Epstein conducted a study on trends of Millennials’ hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  The responses received through this study were very revealing.  When describing the ideal boss, one representative respondent said, “He should be honest and open minded.  He should be able to guide and should be a friend and co-worker.”  Wait a second . . . Friend?  Co-worker?  What happened to organizational hierarchy and maintaining professional distance from those who report to you??!?!

As if the unnamed respondent’s statement isn’t enough, findings in the same study indicate 66 percent of millennial business students reportedly agreed with the following statement: “I prefer personal relationships with my bosses.”  What of the Gen Xers?  Only 52 percent responded similarly—clearly, there’s a significant difference in the prioritization of social connection.  This trend is also evident in DecisionWise employee engagement survey data, which shows Millennial survey respondents as generally being the population least satisfied with levels of social connection in their organizations.

So, the message to all employers looking to engage their millennial employees: connect with them.  Create an organizational culture that fosters and promotes development of positive relationships among employees and across departments and regardless of job title. The side benefit is that employees from other generations are also likely to respond well—higher levels of connection within your organization can help engage employees from any generation.

And to you middle managers, try not to have a myocardial infarction if you discover one of your new Millennial employees has a lunch or golf date with your boss’s boss.  According to Hershatter and Epstein, Millennials expect to work in hierarchically flat organizations with ready access to senior leadership.  If this kind of access is not typical, there’s a good chance we’ll initiate it ourselves.

If we Millennials can’t find a satisfactory level of social connection in our organizations, we will leave and seek a different professional setting—one that fosters openness and collaboration.  Personally, I wouldn’t quit a job that didn’t allow me to check Facebook in the office, but others from my generation have been known to do just that.  Just sayin’.

Related Post: Mangoes and Engagement: A Clear Connection
Related Post: Telecommuting and Engagement: Evaluating the Tradeoff between Autonomy and Connection
Related Post: Get Back to Work, Yahoo! How Losing Connection Hinders Employee Engagement
Related White Paper: ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: The Five Keys of Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement and Economics

A half century ago, organizations began to realize that the value of a business extended beyond the combined worth of its physical assets.  Until that time, assembly lines, materials, buildings, machinery, and slide rules, along with the other line items on the accounting ledger, had been tallied to determine the overall valuation of a business.  However, as organizations began to rely more on human capital, it became clear that accounting for “soft” factors must also find a way into business valuation.

In 1969, US economists James Tobin and William Brainard introduced a concept that became known as “Tobin’s q.”  As organizations sought to come up with a better solution for placing a value on assets, they looked to better quantify the differences between market value and the replacement value of that business or assets. Tobin and Brainard had developed a formula to address these differences. Tobin’s q was developed to account for the ratio between the market value and the replacement value of that same asset.
Tobin was later awarded the Nobel Prize in economics.  The principles behind Tobin’s theory became a basic concept of business valuation.

One of the key findings associated with his equation was that there were two factors not generally measured by accountants:  market hype and intellectual capital.

Market hype is made up of speculation as to what the company could potentially do.  Is it poised for growth?  What’s the buzz on the street about the company?  Is there a merger in the future?  These are the types of questions that create this hype and speculation.

Intellectual capital is more complex, as it involves many different pieces.  These pieces are parts of three basic components: organizational capital, customer capital, and human capital.

  • Organizational capital, also known as structural capital, contains the supportive infrastructure that allows the human capital to succeed.  This includes such essentials as databases, patents, networks, strategies, and processes.
  • Customer capital is a factor of the relationships a company has with its customer.  If a business builds strategic partnerships with a number of key, prominent clients, that business is likely to be valued much higher than one that is starting with only a few customers.  This is also dependent upon what type and level of knowledge and information is shared between the business and the customer.  The stronger the customer connection, the higher the value of the entity.
  • Human capital is created by the skills and knowledge of the individuals within that organization.   It’s the “people” component of Tobin’s equation.  However, it extends beyond simply what the employees know and can do; it requires action.

Employee Engagement and Economics

Organizations have taken note of the importance of human capital, as most businesses today are dependent upon this human aspect.  Many are now taking great care to ensure that they hire high-caliber individuals.  They also develop these individuals, providing training needed to develop organizational and customer capital.  They spend a great deal of time, effort, and money to ensure employees are compensated to a degree that this capital will remain within the organization, yet retaining knowledge and capability are not enough.

Companies today have learned that they must create the environment in which employees choose to actively contribute to the intellectual capital element of Tobin’s q.  This is why employee engagement has moved from being discussed as a nice-to-have to being viewed as a critical factor in business success.  Unless an employee is engaged in what he or she does, a business may possess a high degree of intellectual capital, but may be unable to unlock that potential.

It’s not about the “soft stuff” anymore.  This soft side of performance has bottom line implications, and significantly impacts the value and success of an organization.  Employee engagement is the key to unlocking that value.

5 Keys of Employee Engagement White Paper

Money: Happiness, Satisfaction and Engagement are Completely Different Things

DecisionWise Show Me The Money

Can Employee Engagement be bought?

An interesting question, and one that is sure to generate multiple opinions.  We repeatedly hear that money can’t buy happiness.  In his recent article Does Money Make You Happier?, Dr. Hal Hershfield examines the effects of money on happiness.  His article concludes that money affects overall well-being.  Therefore, Hershfield explains that richer countries don’t have “happier” citizens; they have citizens who are more satisfied with their lives.  We find the same relationship between happiness and satisfaction when looking at employee engagement survey results.

Satisfaction and Engagement

In a previous blog “Are Your Employees Engaged or Just Satisfied?,” we discussed how compensation initiates a transactional relationship based on satisfaction.  In the blog, Dr. Maylett, explains that employers provide compensation to employees who, in return, perform their job duties.  It’s a contractual, transactional relationship.  Competitive compensation is expected by employees.  Once pay rates fall below competitive levels, the contract is no longer being fulfilled, and employees become dissatisfied and either underperform or seek new employment—or both.
Download: Employee Satisfaction Survey

Happiness and Employee Engagement

So, what about happiness? We find that happiness is more closely related to employee engagement.  Obviously money matters (try telling your employees, “Oh, by the way, we won’t be paying you in April”), but not in the way that many people assume.  Too often HR and Management teams, anxious to boost employee survey scores or myriad other factors, focus on compensation components as a way to engage their employees.  Remember, satisfied employees aren’t always engaged or happy employees.  In fact, they may not even be productive employees.  So, let’s take a look at what contributes to happiness and engagement.

As humans, we long for social interaction and friendships (even the raging introverts like me).  By having friendships in the workplace, we experience higher levels of social connection—one of the five essential elements of employee engagement.  Knowing and getting along with the people we work with makes us excited to go to work, because we’ll be able to work with and be around those we have brought into our circle.  Friendships—or, at the very least, a sense of connection with coworkers—lead to employee engagement.

Another factor that contributes to happiness and engagement is feeling a sense of meaning.  If we find meaning in the activities we preform, we will become more engaged.  This rule is best illustrated by an anecdotal example:

In high school I had a job working at Papa Murphy’s Take ‘n’ Bake Pizza.  The job didn’t pay well, but I was still engaged.  The company espouses a zealous prioritization of exemplary customer service and complete customer satisfaction.  I noticed how the company made customer service a priority above all other things, which aligned with my personal values.  Since I believed customers anywhere should receive great service, I was happy to work for a company that shared that belief.  I found a sense of meaning in my job by contributing to the top priority of the company while fulfilling one of my personal values.

Notice how neither of the two elements above (connection and meaning) have anything to do with compensation!  Both elements are essential when trying to achieve—or augment—levels of employee engagement.  Yet, we often hear of a manager sitting down in the HR Manager’s office, saying, “We have to give her an increase or she’ll walk.” While this may be the case at times, we typically find that compensation is merely an easy-out for a more complex issue.  Money can only do so much.

Next time your organization rolls out an employee engagement survey, be careful when you examine the results.  Take it for what it is.   Questions that deal with levels of benefits and compensation are generally rated poorly by employee respondents.  It’s always been the case, and likely always will be.  None of us is paid what we (think we) are worth. Throwing more money at employees isn’t the first place to start when trying to improve employee engagement.  You may get satisfied employees, but satisfaction won’t translate into engagement or happiness.
Employee Engagement Survey Sample Download

What’s the Difference Between Trait, State, and Behavioral Employee Engagement?

The term “employee engagement” can mean a variety of different things depending on how it is used and in what context it is implied.  It can describe someone’s disposition (Trait Engagement), current feelings (State Engagement), or how they perform their job (Behavioral Engagement).  Looking at employee engagement in each context helps to have a more meaningful discussion about how individuals and organizations interact.
Trait State and Behavioral Engagement
Trait Engagement:  Some people have a more engaged predisposition when it comes to their work.  All things being equal, they are naturally more engaged than others.  The markings of individuals with high trait employee engagement include:

  • Positive views of life and work
  • Proactive personality
  • Autotelic personality
  • Positive Affect
  • Locus of control
  • Conscientiousness

State Engagement: Employees can feel more (or less) engaged in their work depending on the circumstances from day to day.  Here, the work and its conditions contribute to the feelings of engagement.  People describe these feelings as “being in the zone” or experiencing moments of “flow” as they work.  State engagement includes:

  • Feelings of energy, absorption
  • Satisfaction (affective)
  • Involvement
  • Commitment
  • Empowerment

Behavioral Engagement:  Trait and State Engagement lead to observable behaviors that can be described as engaged.  It is commonly defined as “putting forth discretionary effort” or “going the extra mile.”   Some other examples of behavioral engagement include:

  • Extra-role behavior
  • Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)
  • Proactive/Personal Initiative
  • Role Expansion
  • Engagement with others (team, leaders)

Can a leader cause someone to be engaged?  The reality is that organizations, and even individual leaders, have little influence on changing one’s trait engagement.  Actually, they don’t have full control over State or Behavioral Engagement, either.  So, what can leaders or organizations do?  Are they powerless in their quest for the engaged organization?  Not by a long shot.  They can (1) Hire people who can chose to be engaged; (2) Create that environment in which these employees choose to be engaged; and (3) Avoid causing them to be disengaged.  In other words, get out of their way!
5 Keys of Employee Engagement White Paper
Related Webinar: The Psychology of Employee Engagement.
Related Content: ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®
Related Blog Post: Employee Satisfaction vs. Motivation and Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement Contrast: James Bond vs. Federal Government Employees

After watching Skyfall over the weekend (for the fifth time, I might add), I was curious to understand more about the level of employee engagement among clandestine service agents, like those employed by James Bond’s MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. After a quick search, I found the results from the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey which includes responses from most employees of the US government.  Unfortunately, the publicly available results do not include CIA employee data.  The response I was greeted with when I called the Agency’s Office of Public Affairs to request employee survey data was less than accommodating.

Instead of trying to extrapolate the data for CIA employees for my own selfish interests, I’ll control myself and focus on the data available.  To throw in a bit of clandestine operative engagement data, I’ll also include my analysis (read: speculations) of the most recognizable (shouldn’t that be a bad thing?) master of espionage: James Bond.

The Employee Engagement Contrast

Before looking at the employee survey results, I had hypothesized that public-sector employees—like James Bond—must be some of the most engaged employees out there.  After all, wouldn’t the patriotism of these employees make them willing to exert extra effort to support the great cause of Democracy?  I was wrong.  Let’s examine the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results using the DecisionWise ENGAGEMENT MAGIC® Employee Engagement framework.

Meaning—Questions like “The work I do is important,” should be answered with a resounding “YES!” from federal employees, right?  If not, then why in the world do I pay my taxes?  This survey item—though currently reported at 91.2 percent favorable—is experiencing a declining trend that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) deems significant.  One must question, however, whether employees responding to this question considered the fact that if an entire department responded negatively to this question, the department might be quickly done away with.  Just sayin’.

Bond, however, has plenty of meaning in his job.  Remember how quickly he responded when prompted with the “country” word association in Skyfall? He loves and honors his country; meaning comes naturally.

Autonomy—When faced with the statement, “[I] have a feeling of personal empowerment with respect to work processes,” federal employees responded with a dismal 45.2 percent favorable.  These scores are continuing to decline.

From the various Bond films, we can see that our favorite secret agent exercises a great deal of autonomy, often to the chagrin or disdain of his superiors.

Growth—Now here’s an interesting trend: from 2008 to 2010, most federal employees responded favorably to the statement, “I am given a real opportunity to improve my skills in my organization.”  From 2010 to 2011 ratings remained stagnant; in 2012, ratings were declining at about 2 percent annually.

Growth for Bond?  Check.  With his missions becoming increasingly complex—and his targets increasingly menacing—Bond has a very high-growth job.  His skills and abilities are constantly tried, tested, and augmented.

Impact—Despite the variety of important functions federal employees perform every day—many of which directly correlate with the United States’ national security (even when threatened by Dennis Rodman)—employees responded apathetically to the statement, “My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment,” with only about 70 percent responding favorably.  Remember, this means that nearly one-third feel little, if any, personal accomplishment in their work.

By pursuing global conflicts and eliminating key targets, Bond continues to serve and protect the citizens of England.  His impact is felt by all, as his work directly contributes to his nation’s security.  Impact?  Definitely.

Connection—I’ll have you know that it took quite an effort to even pinpoint a question on the survey that directly related to connection.  Some survey items focused on a connection between an employee’s duties and the organization’s mission, but no single question targeted the necessary social connection employees must have to be engaged in their jobs.  The closest we could come to was, “I have trust and confidence in my supervisor,” at just 65 percent favorability.  Scores for this question are currently experiencing a bearish trend.

Every Bond film has its scantily clad provocatrix who provides Bond with gratuitous levels of, well, social connection.  Bond loves the ladies; his love is even manifest in his bittersweet relationship with M.  High marks for connection.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the same federal employees who work to protect my health and safety are, on average, incredibly disengaged in their jobs.  I should also mention that the response rate to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey was only at about 46 percent (ouch). Where is James Bond when I need him?

What are we to make of these public-sector employee-survey findings?  If you were the working for the OPM (assuming you had some favorable degree of autonomy), what would be the first element of ENGAGEMENT MAGIC® you would seek to improve, to bolster engagement?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Read more about our experience working with public-sector employees in the article Halting the Engagement Exodus.

The Employee Engagement Choice: Job, Career, or Calling?

As we’ve researched trends in employee engagement, we consistently find dissonance in levels of engagement between a person who views his job as—well, a job—and people who have turned their “jobs” into careers or callings. Yale psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski, for example, has published research on how the mental conceptions we all have about our jobs affect our performance and our happiness. Her studies find that different people can see their employment as any of the three aforementioned types (jobs, careers, or callings), regardless of the position they hold (and even if they all hold the same position).

In one portion of her studies, Wrzesniewski found that among 24 administrative assistants (all of whom had nearly identical conditions of employment) perceptions of job, career, and calling were represented in almost equal thirds. Intrigued by this observation, we’ve sought to differentiate between people who see their work as a job, as a career, and as a calling. Here’s what we’ve been able to surmise:

  • JobPeople who have jobs and see them as nothing more than jobs are generally satisfied. (Remember what we said about employee satisfaction?) These individuals go to work, fulfill their responsibilities, and anticipate the reward of a paycheck. Rarely, if ever, do they choose to connect their job description to the success of the company or to the betterment of society or self.  These individuals, sadly, are not engaged.
  • CareerPeople who see their jobs as careers are focused on self-improvement, advancement, and contributing to the overall success of the company. Though they may exhibit some levels of engagement, these individuals have not chosen to realize their full potential and therefore do not achieve the levels of success they are capable of.
  • CallingPeople who feel a connection between their personal values and their work generally see their employment as a calling. They embrace company goals, values, and objectives, committing themselves to success because they see the bigger picture. These individuals have made the choice to leverage their talents as they contribute to the success of their company; they witness their actions contributing to a greater good.

Notice the recurring theme in each of these mindsets (especially the last one): we all have an employee engagement choice to make about how we view our employment. We can all become the remarkable people who view “jobs” as callings. When we choose to have this mindset, we become more productive assets of human capital to our companies and we develop greater feelings of engagement and personal satisfaction in our work.
This research leads us to one question, though: whose responsibility is it to establish the calling mindset in an organization? Are employers responsible for cultivating such a mindset as part of the company culture, or are employees more valuable when they choose to individually develop this paradigm?
5 Keys of Employee Engagement White Paper
Related Post: Motivate me. I dare you.

Are Employees Really that Disengaged in Their Jobs?

Man thinking as he looks at tablet

It seems that few days pass without a message in my Inbox containing the subject line, “68% of US workers disengaged in their jobs.”
On those rare days when I’m not flooded with emails along these lines, my newsfeeds, tweets, and subscribed blog notifications more than make up for the lack of “the-employee-engagement-sky-is-falling” bad news.
When press releases like the above headline reach the company level, we create a flurry of activity designed to ensure that we’re not part of the majority, and that our workers all fall within the rare 32% of engaged contributors. Consultants, employee survey companies, the media, and HR teams everywhere latch onto this notion and are quick to justify their positions with dire statistics.
Could this be true? Are the vast majority of workers today really that disengaged in their jobs? If so, we are in for some tough times.
The reality is that most employees are engaged in the workplace.
Inherent in human nature is the desire to succeed, as well as to be engaged in what we do. Although there may be times when our workplace activities don’t fully ignite the fire within, generally speaking, we either move on to activities that do engage us, or move out of the organization.
Think of it logically. Do you really think that 2/3 of all those with whom you associate hate their jobs?
Before I’m water boarded by my fellow HR and consulting friends, I will admit to the fact that some days I would rather be fishing than working. There. I said it. But disengaged? Not by a long shot.
Most of these depressing statistics come from survey or opinion polling firms, and are based on aggregating a series of questions. For example, the question, “I am satisfied with my pay” is looped in with other questions like, “Overall, I am fully engaged in the work that I do each day.” These several dozen (or more) questions are then mixed together to come up with an ‘Engagement Score.” Not a bad practice, but also not one from which we can accurately state, “Two-thirds of employees are disengaged.”
Why? The biggest problem is that we mistake drivers of engagement with indicators of engagement.
Drivers of engagement are those elements that contribute to one’s level of engagement. Things like working conditions, pay, a boss’s feedback, company strategy, etc., are all good examples of drivers. They don’t necessarily indicate how engaged I am, but are often contributors to (or detractors from) my level of engagement. It’s very useful to know how employees respond to questions around these drivers, as they are important contributing factors. But they don’t measure engagement. That’s where indicators come in.
Indicators (also known as “outcomes”) tell us whether one is engaged or disengaged. They are not questions about pay or benefits. They aren’t questions about how my boss communicates with me. They are questions about whether or not I am engaged.
Just to clarify, then, drivers are measures of inputs (factors that often lead to engagement). Indicators are measures of outcomes (how engaged I actually am as a result of some of these drivers).
However, when many doomsayers report “levels of engagement,” they are actually pooling and mixing together a series of questions on drivers mixed with indicators.
When we mix all of these factors together and come out with an “engagement score” we make three fundamental errors:

  1. We assume that these drivers are actually indicators of the level of engagement. Faulty assumption.
  2. We assume that we know what engages everyone. In other words, we assume that every employee in every organization derives satisfaction from the same factors. Wrong again.
  3. We assume that there is a 100% correlation between what the company provides and my level of engagement. If the organization provides all factors (drivers) necessary for my engagement, then I am engaged. Conversely, if one or two are missing, I am not. What we are not considering here is choice. An individual can choose to be engaged or disengaged, regardless of the drivers provided by the organization.

In our study of employee engagement across multiple organizations and continents, we find similar results to those above—most employees respond negatively to questions regarding factors such as pay. After all, are any of us paid what we think we’re worth? However, that doesn’t mean they’re disengaged.
In fact, we find that when we ask questions that truly are indicators of engagement— questions like: “I would like to remain at XYZ Company, even if a similar job were available elsewhere”—the answers indicate a resounding “YES!”
We typically like to ask 6-8 questions on every employee survey that we refer to as “Engagement Anchors.” These are indicator questions that signal whether or not employees are engaged, versus driver questions, which merely act as input into our choice to be engaged in what we do. While drivers are important to understand, as they give us insight into what causes engagement or disengagement within an organization, they are not true indicators of engagement.
Where does this leave us?
When looking at those questions that are indicators of engagement, rather than drivers, we find that only 8% of employees are fully disengaged on their jobs, with another 19% being moderately engaged.
So perk up. We’re not quite ready for the apocalyptic downfall of organizations across the globe. That’s a far cry from claims that “Everyone in the company (except me and HR) is disengaged.
Employee Engagement Survey
Related Post: The Employee Engagement Sky is Falling!
Related Post: How Disengaged Employees Could be Sabotaging Your Company’s Success
Related Webinar: Inside the Mind of a Disengaged Employee
Related Training: ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®

Group Brainstorming Pitfalls and 3 Ways to Make it More Effective

Making decisions together as a team

You have been asked by the senior team to come up with ways to increase profitability. Common corporate practice is to gather a group in a brainstorming session to work it out. After all, two heads are better than one, right?
Not so fast.
BRAINSTORMING may not be quite the invaluable instrument in the team toolkit we have been led to believe, particularly if it is not done right.
How effective is brainstorming? According to researchers, not very. In fact, in a Diehl and Strobe meta-analysis of 22 research studies on brainstorming, 18 of these studies demonstrated that people were more effective thinking alone than in groups. Individuals working alone typically came up with more ideas than did the brainstorming groups.
So why do we continue to give brainstorming a prominent place in our team toolkit? First of all, it does have its place, and is certainly not useless. Those of us who have participated in successful brainstorming sessions can relate.
According to Dutch psychologist Bernard Nijstad, there are psychological reasons this practice continues.
First, when working in a team, the pressure to come up with ideas is spread across the group. This takes the weight off the individual to generate all ideas. We get the sense that many ideas have been generated, and therefore we don’t have to work as hard. We feel that because the quantity of thoughts generated by the group exceeds the quantity we might generate as individuals, brainstorming must be better.
In a follow-up Nijstad study, students were asked to work either alone or as a group to identify ways to promote tourism. It was found that students who worked in groups were much more satisfied personally, and were convinced that they had generated better ideas, than those who worked individually. Surprisingly, however, they had fewer ideas than those generated by pooling the thoughts generated by those working as individuals. Yet they felt better.
There are reasons why we might feel better about ourselves when we brainstorm. One of these is “memory confusion,” which is the notion that when working as a group we may confuse ideas generated by the group with ideas generated by ourselves—our own ideas. The belief that these were actually our ideas leaves us feeling better about ourselves and our creative abilities.
Second, the concept of “social comparison” kicks in—we see that the generation of ideas is also difficult for others, and that maybe we aren’t so lacking in creativity as we thought. In other words, we’re not as boring as we had supposed. Instant feel-good.
Brainstorming effectiveness is also complicated by other factors. These include freeloading (letting others take over and keeping thoughts to oneself), apprehension (a fear that one’s ideas are not as good as others’), and blocking.
Blocking involves “waiting ones’ turn.” Even when we might indicate it’s a free-for-all, brainstorming does involve some degree of etiquette. We must wait until someone else has finished expressing a thought before we are able to do so. We also wait for the group’s appointed scribe to accurately record (write on the whiteboard, note on the flipchart, etc.) the idea. In waiting, we halt the ability for the brain to generate new thought, as we can only entertain one idea at a time. By the time we are able to speak, we may have lost valuable thought-generating time. Our ideas may be forgotten before we can interject our insight.
Keep in mind, brainstorming does have some benefits, and is still valuable for teams. Below are three ideas which can help us take advantage of brainstorming as a tool:

  1. Keep brainstorming groups to a maximum of three or four people. Studies have shown that small groups of three or four working together are more effective than the same number of individuals working separately. This changes once the group exceeds four, however, where effectiveness is reduced.
  2. Mix it up a little. A little new blood on a brainstorming team has shown to boost group creativity. Even rotating one person increases group creativity when compared to long-term teams. Diverse teams, including those from other disciplines, also tend to promote more idea generation than those in which groups are more homogenous.
  3. Do some homework. Before pooling ideas in a brainstorming session, team members should do their own individual thinking. Jot some ideas down on paper before discussing as a group.

Throw it out the window? Not yet. Group brainstorming can be very effective. However, keep in mind that two heads are not always better than one.