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For example, if six people are in a group and one person is talking about his or her idea, then the other five people are "blocked" and less able to provide their own creative input. Additionally, production blocking can occur if the same six people are attempting to communicate their ideas at the same time as one another. Group members may not have time to think of an idea, might get distracted, or merely forget about their idea before they have an opportunity to share it. Another factor that can contribute to this issue is whether or not a group member feels comfortable enough to share their idea. Individuals may be reluctant to share their suggestions, fearing that they may be negatively criticized.
Production blocking becomes more of a problem as the size of the group increases. It is also not the same thing as social loafing because it is an attentional or cognitive barrier, not a motivational one.
Methods to decrease the production blocking problem
- Writing down thoughts: Taking notes is recommended when group members in brainstorming groups are waiting for their chance to speak. When communication is not available, writing down ones thoughts would be helpful to prevent productivity loss. Although the note taking method reduces the production blocking problem, a study has shown that it does not increase the quantity of ideas produced.
- Nominal Groups: Reviews of research on brainstorming groups and nominal groups suggest that nominal groups surpass brainstorming groups. Unlike traditional brainstorming groups, nominal groups consist of a body of individuals whose ideas can be shared without any interaction with others. Individuals in nominal groups do not have to wait to share their thoughts, thus, their ideas will not be forgotten or lost. Another factor to consider is that in brainstorming groups, individuals may end up having conversations about a different subject with other members. This can be a significant factor that can lead to the production blocking problem because group members are not contributing to the quality of the groups product. Additionally, it had been said that using nominal groups would generate a larger amount of ideas in a restricted time frame compared to traditional brainstorming groups.
- Brain storming online: Instead of physically interacting with other members of a brainstorming group, electric brainstorming consists of communication via a computer. Like nominal groups, members of electric brainstorming groups do not have to worry about waiting their turn to speak. Ideas are also shared anonymously, therefore, group members do not have to feel resistant to share their unique thoughts with others. Furthermore, the ideas that group members come up with would not be lost considering that they will be recorded.
- Diehl, M., & Stroebe, W. (1991). "Productivity loss in idea-generating groups: Tracking down the blocking effect". Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes: 392–403.
- Brown, V., & Paulus, P.B. (1996). "The simple dynamic model of social factors in group brainstorming". Small Group Research 21 (1): 91–114. doi:10.1177/1046496496271005.
- Henningsen, D.D., & Henningsen, M.L.M. (2013). "Generating ideas about the uses of brainstorming: Reconsidering the losses and gains of brainstorming groups relative to nominal groups". Southern Communication Journal 73 (1): 42–55.
- Nijstad, B.A., Stroebe, W., & Lodewijkx, H.F.M. (2003). "Production blocking and the idea generation:Does blocking interfere with cognitve processes?". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39: 531–548.
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