Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

The Use of Two Electronic Idea Generation Techniques in Strategy Planning Meetings

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

The Use of Two Electronic Idea Generation Techniques in Strategy Planning Meetings

Article excerpt

A large amount of research has shown how new electronic meeting techniques can improve group productivity. In particular, "electronic brainstorming" (which involves exchanging typed comments anonymously and simultaneously over a computer network), has been demonstrated to be superior to the typical oral meeting by increasing group satisfaction with the process, reducing meeting time, increasing participation and idea generation, increasing group synergy and consensus, and providing other benefits (Dennis, George, Jessup, Nunamaker, & Vogel, 1988; Dennis, Heminger, Nunamaker, & Vogel, 1990; Pinsonneault & Kraemer, 1989).

Although it is not always clearly stated in the literature, the vast majority of research on groups in electronic brainstorming meetings is based upon the individual poolwriting technique (Gallupe, Dennis, Cooper, Valacich, Bastianutti, & Nunamaker, 1992; Nunamaker, Dennis, Valacich, Vogel, & George, 1991), but a few others have used the nominal group technique (Hwang & Guynes, 1994), electronic blackboards, Delphi (Turoff, 1972), or other methods. In general, few attempts have been made to compare electronic groups using different techniques, but some experimental research using undergraduate students has shown that a method called gallery writing may be superior to poolwriting. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to generalize these experimental results to a nonstudent sample in the real world.


Research on brainstorming began in the 1950s (Osborn, 1957) when several oral techniques were developed to help discussion groups generate creative ideas through the reduction of inhibitory aspects of group problem solving. Early researchers claimed that groups using these oral brainstorming techniques could generate more ideas than groups of people working individually in separate locations (termed nominal groups). Other researchers, however, found that nominal groups were superior to brainstorming groups (Bouchard, Drauden, & Barasaloux, 1974; Milton, 1965; Vroom, Grant, & Cotton, 1969) in two ways: (1) nominal groups produced more ideas of better quality, and (2) average productivity declined using oral brainstorming as group size increased.

In the past decade, research has focused on computer-based counterparts to these manual or oral techniques. However, the findings have been mixed. While some studies reported that the use of electronic tools led to improved decision quality, increased participation, increased consensus, or increased satisfaction, others found the opposite to be true, or that the results were inconclusive (Dennis, Nunamaker, & Vogel, 1989). These mixed findings influenced researchers to move in a new direction that focused on a specific aspect, such as the effect of group size, anonymity, physical proximity, and parallel communication (McLeod, 1992).

Other researchers stressed the importance of studying the role of technology itself in electronic group research (Benbasat & Lim, 1993; Huber, 1990). For example, a different design or an improvement in computer technology might change the experimental results (Watson, DeSanctis, & Poole, 1988). However, only a few studies have investigated the influence of different electronic tools on group meetings (most have compared an electronic technique with an oral technique, for example). In one study, researchers examined three different forms of meeting technology (an electronic blackboard, networked workstations, and an oral, face-to-face meeting) and found that decision quality was best for groups communicating via an electronic blackboard, second best for networked groups, and worst for face-to-face groups (Jarvenpaa, Rao, & Huber, 1988). In another study, researchers found significant differences in groups using two different electronic meeting tools (Easton, George, Nunamaker, & Pendergast, 1990). The outcomes of this research stream imply that the choice of the electronic tool can have a major influence on the meeting outcomes. …

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