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Multiplicative Idiocy

The Oatmeal has, as usual, nailed it: “Two half-wits do not equal a full-witted person. They equal a quarter-witted person.”

Of course, the problem runs much deeper than a meeting attended by half-wits. It’s the whole idea behind “there are no bad ideas in brainstorming,” which is not only demonstrably false, but also quite obviously dreamed up by someone who’s never participated in a group brainstorming session. (My conservative estimate, after 16 years in this business, is that, of all the ideas generated by three or more people in a room at a single time, roughly 98.5 percent are terrible.)

I think some of the misunderstanding comes from the mythos surrounding creativity. There’s no single proven method, because we all approach our jobs in different ways. I prefer the quiet of solitude, where I can think through a problem, uninterrupted, and try to come up with multiple ways of solving it. Others feel the need to express themselves to anyone who will listen, gauge feedback, and adapt their solutions accordingly. But because we as a society seem to be obsessed with consensus-building—not to mention the idea that collaboration is always better—the latter approach almost always wins out.

I’m not so sure, though. There seems to be a single-mindedness behind most great ideas. While you can bet that committees are responsible for stuff like this.



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