Executing Collaborative Brainstorming Idea Organization Through Distributed and Parallel Sorting

Executing Collaborative Brainstorming Idea Organization Through Distributed and Parallel Sorting

Joel H. Helquist (Utah Valley University, USA), Christopher B. R. Diller (University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA) and John Kruse (MITRE Corporation, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4891-2.ch001
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This chapter examines the post-convergence process of organizing ideas that are generated during collaborative idea generation activities. The method presented reduces the impact of organizing brainstorming ideas on individual participants by dividing the organization activity into smaller, discrete tasks that can be completed individually, and in parallel, by the participants. The entire pool of brainstorming ideas is subdivided into smaller pools and each participant is then tasked with organizing one of the subsets of ideas. The results show that by dividing up the overall activity into subtasks, the subjects experienced a more favorable environment. Furthermore, the subjects were able to work through their subset of ideas and produce results that were similar to those performing the full sort of the entire pool.
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Literature Review

Post-Generate Phase Challenges

Idea generation, or divergence, activities have received considerable attention in the literature (Anson, Bostrom, & Wynne, 1995; Briggs, de Vreede, & Nunamaker Jr., 2003; Nunamaker Jr., Briggs, Mittleman, Vogel, & Balthazard, 1996; Romano Jr., Briggs, Nunamaker Jr., & Mittleman, 1999; Valacich, Dennis, & Nunamaker Jr., 1992). Brainstorming is the activity that dominates the category and it is used extensively across collaboration modalities. It is low complexity and can be performed easily in parallel, by distributed participants, or even asynchronously, as it requires minimal collaborative coordination or interaction between the participants. Although there may be qualitative benefits to working in concert (e.g., the ability to see others’ ideas while brainstorming), this is not a requirement. Each individual is able to submit ideas in parallel, yielding a low overhead way to generate content.

In contrast, convergence, and the subsequent organization, evaluation, and consensus building activities, tend to have much higher requirements for use (Briggs et al., 2003). These activities are of a much higher complexity and require more collaboration and interaction from the participants. These activities take many forms, but generally, they aim to move the group from having unstructured or semi-structured, and often repetitive, content to having a more coherent, structured, and succinct output of value for a particular end. Unlike the parallel brainstorming tasks, these post-ideation phases typically requires the group to work serially - considering, synthesizing, aggregating, and prioritizing the content together. These activities require a higher level of collaboration and interaction between the participants, creating an increased level of difficulty and cognitive load.

One of these activities that is typically performed serially and through a facilitator is organization. In this task, the participants group the brainstorming ideas into similar buckets. The facilitator typically guides the group as they review the brainstorming ideas, clustering similar thoughts, removing non-solutions, and trying to better understand the overall pool of ideas.

Work from Chen et al (1996) illustrates that satisfaction levels dip when groups move from divergence (idea generation) activities to convergence and subsequent (idea organization) activities. Similarly, the amount of time required by the group is greater for convergence activities than divergence activities. The end result is that the groups typically enjoy generating content while coalescing and organizing that content is more time consuming, laborious, and less satisfying.

Unlike divergence, the post-brainstorming activities have received little attention in the literature (Briggs et al., 2003). More specifically, the organization pattern of collaboration has not received much, if any, attention in the literature (de Vreede & Briggs, 2019). Recently, new research has come out investigating the reduce and clarify phases that constitute convergence (Seeber, Merz, Maier, de Vreede, & Weber, 2017; Seeber, 2019; Seeber, de Vreede, Maier, & Weber, 2017). More work is still needed to understand these convergence activities. Furthermore, the lack of literature regarding organization leaves a void in knowledge regarding a critical component of collaborative work. As a consequence, there exists a need to conduct exploratory research to further understand the complexities of organization as well as methodologies and tools for mitigating those complexities.

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