Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Effective Meetings through Electronic Brainstorming

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Effective Meetings through Electronic Brainstorming

Article excerpt

Groups usually meet in order to generate ideas, to share information, and to initiate action. These group meetings may not always be effective. Frequently the discussion will bypass the focal points of the meeting or, members will be apprehensive as to how other members will perceive their ideas. Electronic Brainstorming (EBS) is designed to change the behavior of groups. It is designed to help employees communicate effectively during meetings in a painless and efficient way. Members sit in front of their computers and type in their ideas anonymously. The ideas are then passed on to other members electronically and synchronously. The purpose of this article is to discuss the pros and the cons of using EBS in organizations. An analysis of EBS and its uses will furnish organizations an insight of this powerful technology.

INTRODUCTION

Electronic brainstorming (EBS) has recently been introduced into organizations as a means of generating ideas; it makes use of computers to allow members to interact and to exchange ideas. The ideas that are generated using EBS are done anonymously and thus tend to be expressed more freely and in greater quantity. Electronic brainstorming has been used to define a problem's scope, to identify possible solutions, and to develop a heuristic classifications scheme.[1]

Electronic brainstorming is used as part of a regular organizational meeting process. It gives organizations the opportunity to efficiently gather ideas, organize those ideas, and to later make decisions. It speeds the meeting process at which it is used, increases productivity, and allows the focus to remain on the ideas rather than on the people who spawned them. When members run out of ideas, they access the ideas produced by the group.

Electronic brainstorming is a form of brainstorming that makes use of computer-mediated electronic communication in order to replace verbal communications. EBS is a new concept as compared to traditional brainstorming, where a group of people sit together, think of ideas and voice their opinions to the group. The system was designed in order to change the behavior of the group, to improve group effectiveness, and to enhance satisfaction. The rationale for electronic brainstorming is that it allows groups to generate ideas anonymously. With anonymity, evaluation apprehension and production blocking may be reduced or completely obliterated; anonymity may allow the members to challenge each other which may consequently increase process gains. Anonymity may also generate a less threatening environment to individuals because less-skilled members can give their input without having to worry about being judged by higher skilled members.

EBS can improve group work because it allows members to work simultaneously. Each participant has his or her computer which permits the person to contribute his or her ideas equally. Electronic brainstorming allows the ideas that were generated in the meeting to be recorded for later use. This record may help reduce redundant ideas and may also increase synergy because members can easily refer to and build on others' ideas long after they were first contributed.[2]

Figure 1 has an explanation of some of the words used in this article.

UTILIZATION

The setting for electronic brainstorming meetings is as follows: A U-shaped conference table contains several workstations. It faces a large projection screen in the front of the room. Each member types his or her ideas into the computer without conversing with the others. The input is then anonymously shown on every workstation in the room as well as on the large projection screen.

Group members may begin with a question on the screen of their terminals. An example of a question may be: "What should be the goals of the company in regards to the next three years?" Another example may be: "How can the company reduce costs?" The focus of the meeting must rest on the task and not on the computer. …

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