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Idea generation and the quality of the best idea

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In a wide variety of organisational settings, teams generate a number of possible solutions to a problem and then select a few for further investigation. We examine the effectiveness of two idea generation processes for such tasks - one, where the team works together as a team, and the other where individuals first work alone and then work as a team. We define effectiveness as the quality of the best ideas identified by the teams. Under mild distributional assumptions, we show that the quality of the best ideas depends on (1) the average quality of solutions generated, (2) the variance in the quality of generated solutions, (3) the number of solutions generated, and (4) the ability of the team to discern the quality of these solutions. Prior research has examined the effect of alternative schemes only on average quality and on the number of ideas generated, ignoring any differences in variance, higher moments, and the ability to discern the best ideas. We develop a theory to explain the role of these factors and test it with an experiment. We find that working solely with a team structure increases the variance in idea quality, but reduces the number of ideas generated, the average idea quality, and the ability to discern the best ideas. However, in a holistic analysis of these factors, we find that the effect of the higher variance of team processes leads to an improvement in the quality of the best ideas generated by a team. However, the inferior ability of teams to discern the best ideas they have generated largely mitigates this advantage. On the basis of these results we recommend that the idea generation and evaluation stages of the idea generation process employ different organisational processes. While teams are a valuable approach to idea generation, the evaluation process should integrate the independent judgements of individuals.

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en

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application/pdf

Resource resource URL

http://flora.insead.edu/fichiersti_wp/inseadwp2008/2008-02.pdf

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Copyright INSEAD. All rights reserved