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How To Generate A Good Idea

My latest on my Big Think blog. Here’s the gist:

Several years ago, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister conducted a study that measured the productivity of computer programmers. Their data set included more than 600 programmers from 92 companies. According to Susan Cain, author of the recently released book Quiet: The Power of Introverts, DeMarco and Lister found that what distinguished the best programmers was not experience or salary, but privacy: personal workspace and freedom from interruption.

In fact, “sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.”

In Quiet, her manifesto, Cain criticizes the new “Groupthink” model that she says dominates our schools and work places. Indeed, students are encouraged to collaborate with their peers often, and many businesses (70% by Cain’s estimate) sport open office plans to encourage their employees to freely exchange ideas. The idea behind Groupthink models is that creativity and achievement requires other people. Lone geniuses are out, says Cain, and collaboration is in.

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