The problem with group brainstorming

“There’s only one problem with group brainstorming: it doesn’t actually work. […] Forty years of research has […] shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four, [which do worse than people working individually].”

“[Despite] all these years of evidence that conventional brainstorming groups don’t work, they remain as popular as ever. Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe that their group performed much better than it actually did.”

-Susan Cain, Quiet (p. 88-89)

Working alone

“If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

-Steve Wozniak (via Quiet, p. 73)


Advice offered to Harvard Business School students (via Quiet, p. 47):

“Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only fifty-five percent, say it as if you believe it a hundred percent.”

It drives me nuts when people do this in meetings. It’s dishonest and inauthentic. The fact that it’s being taught at the leading business schools fills me with sadness.

Speak to me with false conviction, and it will have little effect except to shatter my trust in you.

On the importance of models

“Data, no matter how big, can only tell you what happened in the past. Unless you’re a historian, you actually care about the future — what will happen, what could happen, what would happen if you did this or that. Exploring these questions will always require models. Let’s get over ‘big data’ — it’s time for ‘big modeling’.”

-Bret Victor (link)

This reminds me of a similar point I made in 2008, about Graph Sketcher.

Making up stories

“In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. … Meaning making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t need to be accurate, just certain.”

-Brené Brown (Rising Strong, p. 79)