In his article, Groupthink, the New Yorker’s Jonah Lehrer says there are two types of brainstorming — a free-for-all exchange of ideas in a structured environment, and a random, unplanned debate. Only the second type really works.
He says M.I.T.’s famous Building 20 — which is now replaced with the Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry— became one of the most innovative spaces in the country because it fostered the best kind of brainstorming.
It seems that the kind of brainstorming that is often used in creative circles may not be effective. It would be good to carefully examine this, as often we take the brainstorming style as the best creative practice. What seems to really work is random unplanned debate in close physical spaces. I tried to create this in my lab in Singapore. The administration and management people were very much opposed to my efforts to make a cubicle free open space. They seemed to love walls and cubicles in Singapore. However the physical closeness seems to be critical for creative research. The building 20 at MIT which was an accident of the war effort seems to be one of the best examples.