Lauche, K., University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
This study investigates creative problem solving in teams both in their natural context of organizations and under controlled conditions in the laboratory to see how facilitation could help to structure meetings and to increase participation. In six different companies in mechanical engineering and consumer goods industry a total of 96 hours meeting time were videotaped. Form this, critical situations were transcribed and categorized, comparing them to an overall evaluation of each meeting. These observations indicate that teams benefit from generating ideas or listing requirements in parallel and visualizing them for discussion in the group. This is in line with brainstorming research that suggests written or electronic brainstorming reduced the risk of cognitive blocking and social inhibition. In the observed sample, discussions were focused on the primary task of innovative problem solving, neglecting the planning and social process also essential for project teams. Following these results, different facilitation techniques were compared under experimental conditions, using an engineering design problem and a student proposal as tasks. Four creativity techniques and paper and computer based facilitation were compared against a brainstorming baseline. The results show that the facilitated groups produced more structured output and a higher degree of agreement about their results, but not necessarily more innovative solutions. Creativity, however, was stimulated by instructions to divert and tolerate multiple views before drawing a conclusion. From this, recommendations will be drawn to support teams in organizations in different stages of the innovation process.