Barriers to idea generation for collaborative problem solving
Barriers to Idea Generation for Collaborative
- Enhancing Creativity through Mental Diversity
Heung Ryong WOO *
*Seoul National University of Technology C/o College of Art & Design
172 Gongreung-dong Nowon-ku, Seoul 139-743 KOREA, email@example.com
Abstract: The primary purpose of this study was to find out the barriers to creative thinking for collaborative
problem solving. During the process of idea generation, personal and/or social blocks from these milieus can
arise. Unfortunately these blocks are often out of our awareness, or consciousness. These uncertainties distorted
our creative and intellectual abilities. Therefore, to remove obstacles to creativity, we need to identify the hurdles
on the creative process. One of the effective ways an individual or a group can maximized creative potential is to
find and overcome these blocks. We have hypothesized that idea generation is influenced by the barriers, and it
has close relationships with the types of brain dominance. Each Brain Dominance Profile(BDP) tends to have
preferences for specific processing modes (Skills). The creative idea generation process and the Synergistic
Extrinsic Motivator (SEM) for group have reviewed.
We have looked into the idea generation process using the technique of protocol analysis. By working out
formulae to identify BDP and surveying the blocks to idea generation, we found that close relationships between
BDP and Skills, examined barriers to the idea generation, and suggested an approach to mental diversity as a
This research has implications on overcoming barriers to idea generation. It could also lead to the development
of better approach to expand and enrich our creativity. Especially, it suggests possible advices to enhance the
creativity in the Computer-Supported Environment.
Keywords: idea generation, collaborative thinking, mental diversity, brain dominance profile
The Nomura Institute’s proposition is that creativity will be the next economic activity, replacing
the current focus on information. Just as the industrial revolution replaced agriculture as the
dominant economic activity, creativity will replace the ‘information age’ as the next dominant
global economic focus. There are many aspects
to creativity, but one definition would include the ability to take existing objects and combine
them in different ways for new purposes. Design is a goal-directed activity for problem solving.
We want to bring about a desired solution of the problem, which is something new and valuable.
For that reason, design is more open-ended novel, socially valued products. It is best described as
the human capacity to solve problems or to fashion products in a domain. In a way, that is
initially novel but ultimately acceptable in a culture. We believe that it can be an effective
resource that resides in all people. And it is cultivated and enhanced through the use of
deliberate tools, techniques and strategies.
The primary purpose of this study was to find out the barriers to creative thinking for
collaborative problem solving. During the process of idea generation, personal and/or social
blocks from these milieus can arise. Unfortunately these blocks are often out of our awareness, or
consciousness. These uncertainties distorted our creative and intellectual abilities. Therefore, to
remove obstacles to creativity, we need to identify the hurdles on the creative process. One of the
effective ways an individual or a group can maximize creative potential is to find and overcome
these blocks. It is necessary to survey the creative thinking processes, and to discuss how to
integrate the Hermann’s brain modes for the collaborative design activities. We have paid
attention that creativity can be blocked and hampered during the idea generation, and tried to
identify them. From our previous research we found that a web-based synchronous groupware
(for example, Collaborative Group Thinking System: CGTS)
is an important media, which have influences to the collaborative thinking process. For this study,
we need to examine the blocks to idea generation and developed the formulae for Brain
Dominance Profile (BDP) as a thinking preferences can be coined and presented. Also we have
questioned that there are any relationships between the brain dominances(BDP) and processing
modes(Skills). In this paper we aimed at helping designer to develop the path of least resistance
and create sustainable creative advantage. We have studied how to design out blocks and build in
competitive advantage, explored thinking preferences, and identified bottlenecks.
2. Collaborative Thinking with Whole Brain Modes
2.1 Collaborative Thinking
Professional design requires some level of collaboration among people involved in the project,
such as the designers, builders (or manufacturers), and users. Groze describes collaboration as
working jointly with another person/system where interaction only requires working on
something. If creativity is defined as the ability to combine different elements of knowledge and
experience, the creative potential of a group of people should be larger than that of an individual.
 The different perspectives of the team members are helpful for group thinking, which provide
significant savings of monies and time wasted on ‘misfires’. We have adopted the HermannNehdi’s Whole Brain Mode in order to support the collaborative thinking. He described that the
brain is visualized as a circle divided into four quadrants. The four quadrants describe different
processing modes that we all have access to.  They would be grouped with people whose
thinking preferences complemented this person. The potential for synergy is greatly enhanced by
forming groups so that each quadrant is accessed relatively equally (thus the term whole-brain
groups) . An understanding of different thinking styles is the foundation for any team or group
wishing to work on problems creatively. Appreciating different thinking approaches will allow
every member of a group to share their thinking and ideas openly. Once that openness occurs, the
team’s creativity begins to emerge, taking advantage
of the different thinking styles, rather than Cerebral Limbic Right Left
Analytical Critical Realistic
Logical Financial Technical
Analytical Critical Realistic
Logical Financial Technical
Dominant Organized Tactical
Intuitive Symbolic Teaching
The Ned Hermann Group
Fig. 1 Thinking Characteristics
experiencing them as obstacles.
For the collaborative thinking, we adopted Geschka‘s viewpoint. He argued that creativity is the
leave structured paths and modes of thinking, and merge previously unconnected pieces of
experience to arrive at an idea of how to solve a given problem. Understanding our Brain
Profile(BDP) and the Geschka’s viewpoint provides a new definition of the thinking boundaries
we may have
created for us. Engaging different thinking strategies and techniques through the heuristic
process we are able to discover new ideas and potential solutions abundantly. 
Our thinking preferences characterize our approaches to problem solving, creativity, and
others. All use their particular approaches based on successful experiences. We have explored a
model of thinking
preferences that will be helpful to creative problem solving. Ned Hermann came to recognize that
the brain is
specialized in the way it functions. These specialized modes can be metaphorically organized into
quadrants, each with its own language, values, and “ways of knowing.” Each person is a unique
mix of these
modes of thinking preferences and has one or more strong dominances. Dominance has
response time and higher skill level, and we use our dominant mode for learning and problem
stronger our preference for one way of thinking, the stronger is our discomfort for the opposite
people have great difficulty communicating and understanding each other because they see the
world through very
different “filters.”  (Fig. 1)
Therefore the ultimate outcome of idea generation is greatly enhanced by a collaborative team,
organized with four types of brain dominance. To get out of the limits of the idea generation, it is
know what the thinking preferences and mental defaults are, and how to generate ideas through
approaches. The thinking preferences could be discovered by taking an assessment such as the
Dominance Instrument (HBDI) or other assessment tools. We took notice of Ned Hermann’s
viewpoint that each
brain mode is best for the tasks it was designed to perform. What is sorely needed is a better
balance and an
appreciation for all thinking abilities. We must learn how to find out and integrate our Brain
(BDP) for whole-brain thinking and problem solving.
Fig. 2 Brain Dominance Profile(BDP)
2.2 Finding Brain Dominance Profile (BDP)
It is important to know that a preference for a
particular thinking style and an avoidance of another
style are of equal consequence to an individual. A
preference, particularly a very strong preference, will
lead to turn-on work. A lack of preference or an actual
avoidance in a quadrant results in being turned off to
the mentality of the work elements in the particular
quadrant. Being turned on is highly motivational and
often represents a state of self-actualization. For these
reason, the HBDI profile is quite predictive of a
person’s acquisition of competencies and engagement
in collaborative thinking.
The four-quadrant profile is a metaphor describing
how a person prefers to acquire and process information, not how fast or accurately they do it.
protocol results in a quantified measure of an individual’s preference for each mental quadrant,
which is then
charted on a circular grid to make a personalized visual metaphor.  To get at the total brain
changed the scoring protocol into coordination system. We work out some formulae to calculate
the center of
gravity in order to find and decide the types of brain dominance, Brain Dominance Profile (BDP).
From the scoring protocol, we draw points (A, B, C, and D) on the circular grid (Fig.2)
OP = (
) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (1)
OA = (x
OB = (x
OC = (x
OD = (x
The Cumulative Vector OP is,
= OA + OB + OC + OD ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- (6)
In the Point A (x
= OA * (√2 / 2 ), y
= OA * (√2 / 2 ) ------------------------------------------------------------------- (7)
(OA = Vector of the brain dominance in ‘A’ quadrant, cosθ = 1 /√2, sinθ = 1 /√2)
= OB * (√2 / 2 ), y
= OB * (√2 / 2 ) ------------------------------------------------------------------- (8)
= OC * (√2 / 2 ), y
= OC * (√2 / 2 ) ------------------------------------------------------------------- (9)
= OD * (√2 / 2 ), y
= OD * (√2 / 2 ) ------------------------------------------------------------------ (10)
To find accumulated vectors(OP) in a specific group(major); coordinates of the Point.
X = ∑x
, Y = ∑y
→ P ( X,Y)
When we have calculated these accumulated vectors from formula (1) to (11), we can find the
location of the
cumulative Brain Dominance Profile(BDP) as thinking preferences.
3. Processing Modes and Barriers
3.1 Thinking Preferences and Processing Modes 
Ned Hermann suggested that ‘Differences in Processing Modes’ on the basis of the four-quadrant
In this study, we have considered that the four quadrants of thinking modes have close
relationships with thinking
differences in processing modes (Skills). We have taken notice of thinking characteristics and
“clues” of the
・ Problem solving
・ Scientific Analogies
・ Expressing Ideas
・ Causing Change
Table.1 Differences in Processing Modes (Skills)
Hermann brain dominance model.  The HBDI displays mental preferences, not abilities or
However, there is a strong relationship between references and competencies in that typically one
lead to another.
 In order to avoid the barriers to collaborative idea generations, the diversity of processing
modes are essential.
3.2 Blocks to Creativity
Creative thinking and problem solving is admired and generally encouraged by organizations.
interpersonal and organizational changes can help unleash creativity, psychological blocks can
arise at each stage
of the creative process.
Conceptual blocks are mental walls which lock the problem-solver from correctly perceiving a
conceiving its solution. Everyone has them. However, they vary in quantity and in intensity from
individual. The blocks are closely related, as you will see when you begin to consider them. 
a) Perceptual Blocks: Perceptual blocks are obstacles which prevent the problem-solver from
either the problem itself or the information that is necessary to solve the problem. They affect the
way we see
b) Cultural Blocks: Cultural blocks are acquired by exposure to a given set of cultural patterns.
They include all
the effects of society on the individual.
c) Environmental Blocks: Environmental blocks are imposed by our immediate social and
The most obvious blocks are the physical.
d) Emotional Blocks: Emotional blocks may interfere with the freedom with which we explore
ideas, with our ability to conceptualize fluently and flexibly- and prevent us from communicating
ideas to others
in a manner which will gain them acceptance.
e) Intellectual Blocks: Intellectual blocks result in an inefficient choice of mental tactics or a
intellectual ammunition. Expressive blocks inhibit one’s vital ability to communicate ideas-not
only to others, but
to oneself as well. 
One of the quickest ways an individual or a group can maximize creative potential is to find and
blocks. Unfortunately these blocks are often out of our awareness, or consciousness. They stem
・ Difficulty in Isolating the Problem
・ Tendency to Delimit the Problem Area Too Closely
・ Inability to See the Problem from Various Viewpoints
・ Seeing What You Expect to See – Stereotype
・ Failure to Utilize All Sensory Input
・ Fantasy and reflection are a waste of time, laze, even
・ Playfulness is for children only
・ Problem-solving is a serious business and humor is out of
・ Reason, logic, numbers, utility, practicality are good
・ Tradition is preferable to change
・ Lack of cooperation and trust among colleagues
・ Autocratic boss who values only his ideas
・ Distractions-phone, easy intrusions
・ Lack of support to bring ideas into action
・ Forced atmosphere
・ Uncomfortable interior environment
・ Fear to make a mistake, to fail, to risk
・ overriding desires for security, order
・ Preference for judging ideas, rather than generating them
・ Inability to relax, incubate, and “sleep on it”
・ Lack of challenge
・ Excessive zeal; over motivation to succeed quickly
・ Solving the problem using an incorrect language (verbal,
・ Inflexible or inadequate use of intellectual problemsolving
・ Lack of, or incorrect, information
・ Inadequate language skill to express and record ideas
(verbally, musically, visually, etc.)
・ Lack of understanding of related information
・ Lack of mental faculties of the specialized area
Table.2 Blocks to Idea Generation
uncertainty about ourselves, specifically that we feel insignificant, incompetent, and/or unlikable.
uncertainties typically distort our creative and intellectual abilities since they lead us to try to
being ignored, humiliated, and rejected.
Although these blocks may seem unnoticed to the creative process, in fact, identifying them is the
expanding and enriching our creativity. Recognizing these blocks to idea generation is the first
removing the blocks to creativity and, ultimately, toward feeling better about ourselves.
3.3 Motivation and Mental Diversity for Creativity
We have reviewed of theories on the motivation for creativity. Creativity can arise from a
complex interplay of
motivational forces. Here we focused two types of motivation that stems from the individual’s
involvement in the collaborative idea generation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Amabile proposed two prolonged hypothesis about how motivation affects creativity: “The
motivated state is conducive to creativity, whereas the extrinsically motivated state is
detrimental”. We adapted
the definitions by Collins & Amabile. Intrinsic motivation is defined as the motivation to engage
in an activity
primarily for its own sake, because the individual perceives the activity as interesting, involving,
personally challenging. By contrast, extrinsic motivation is defined as the motivation to engage in
primarily in order to meet some external goals to the work itself, such as attaining an expected
reward, winning a
competition, or meeting some requirement. 
We paid attention to a revised understanding of how extrinsic motivation affects creativity. The
extrinsic motivation has been refined to include two facets: control and information. Under many
extrinsic motivation will be perceived as externally controlling, but there are times when it may
perceived as providing useful, and desired, information. Amabile identified two types of extrinsic
Synergistic extrinsic motivators, which provide information or enable the person to better
complete the task and
which can act in concert with intrinsic motives; and non-synergistic, extrinsic motivators, which
lead the person to
feel controlled and are incompatible with intrinsic motives. Thus, although intrinsic motivation
may be inversely
related to some types of extrinsic motivation (non-synergistic), it may combine additively with
extrinsic motivators. We adopted this concept of motivational synergy for our study, which has
contributed to a
revision of the intrinsic motivation hypothesis: “Intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity;
extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity, but informational or enabling extrinsic
motivation can be
conducive, particularly if initial levels of intrinsic motivation are high.” 
In enhancing creativity, it is important to
consider not only the Brain Dominance
Profile(BDP), but also their interaction: mental
diversity. It suggests that creativity will be
highest in that area the members of group are
connected each other. In other words, people are
most likely to be creative within their “creative
intersection.” Identifying this interconnection can
be an important step toward enhancing creativity.
Non-Synergistic Extrinsic Motivation
Synergistic Extrinsic Motivation
Fig. 3 Synergistic & Non-Synergistic Extrinsic Motivation
The new theoretical conceptions of motivational synergy also have implications for enhancing the
component of creativity (Amabile, 1993). Any extrinsic factors that support one’s sense of
undermining one’s sense of self-determination should positively contribute to intrinsic
motivation. These are the
synergistic extrinsic motivators which has been connected each other. We have applied the
mental diversity of
BDP to Synergistic Extrinsic Motivation(SEM). (Fig. 3) shows the synergistic and nonsynergistic connections
among the Extrinsic Motivators.
We examined the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for the idea generation by investigating
about creativity. From the previous studies and arguments, we believe that creativity can be
Synergistic Extrinsic Motivators (SEM) with mental diversity. Therefore, it needs to be more
enhance the collaborative idea generation in the cyber space.
4. Experiments and Discussion
In order to make up mental diversity, first of all, we need to identify personal Brain Dominance
then group’s one. Secondly, we examined the relationships between BDPs and blocks to idea
Especially, from formulae of Brain Dominance Profile (BDP), we have calculated the
accumulated vectors of the
cumulative BDPs, then analyzed them.
We have formed the following hypotheses to address the questions posed at Introduction.
Hypothesis 1: There are close relationships between the brain dominance types and the types of
to problem solving. This is based on the belief that Ned Hermann’s ‘Differences in Processing
Hypothesis 2: There are close relationships between the brain dominance types and the types of
blocks to idea
generation. This is based on the belief that psychological blocks can arise at each stage of creative
We have designed the experiments and its procedures to
verify the hypothesis. Followings are experiment measures.
Fig. 4 Brain Dominance Types of Four Majors.
a) Subjects are asked to fill a questionnaire with 5 point
Likert type scales: The focus of these experiments is to
examine the Brain Dominance Profile(BDP).
b) Investigation: We set up four investigations:
- Brain Dominance Mode Thinking Characteristics
- Blocks to Idea Generation
- Differences in Processing Modes(Skills)
- Barriers to Effective Communication
c) Period: April 1st 30
d) Subject: total 950 subjects were participated for the
experiments. All subjects were under graduate students from
33 departments in ‘A’ university in Seoul, Korea.
a) The personal Brain Dominance
Modes are calculated and changed into
separately. After we had gained the
quantified measures of an individual’s
preferences of brain dominances, we
had calculated the coordinates, then
have drawn graphs. Fig.4 show us the
different cluster of BDP from the four
different majors. These graphs tell us
the obvious the specific major of
subjects. Total clusters of the 33
majors show no specific directions and scattered in all directions. (Fig. 4)
Table.3 Relationship between Brain Types and Skills.
Pearson Correlation Coefficients
Prob > |r| under H0: Rho=0 / N = 210
0.49817 0.40886 0.03984 0.28046
<.0001 <.0001 0.5659 <.0001
0.39969 0.39877 0.15599 0.22702
<.0001 <.0001 0.0238 0.0009
0.01051 -0.05268 0.35712 0.26633
0.8797 0.4477 <.0001 <.0001
0.23160 0.14845 0.41134 0.52732
<.0007 0.0315 <.0001 <.0001
b) The output of Correlation Analysis shows the brain type ‘A’ and ‘skill a’ has fairly close
at 0.0001 significance.; type ‘B’ and ‘skill b’ 0.398, type ‘C’ and ‘skill c’ 0.357, type ‘D’ and
‘skill d’ 0.527 at
0.0001 significance. Four shaded ellipses show coincident ratios between brain types and skill.
c) Different Skills under a specific brain types are prominent. Especially, it is clear that
‘interpersonal’, ‘problem solving’, and ‘analytical’ skills between type A and type C as the
quadrant are prominent, and ‘causing change’, ‘visualizing’, and ‘intuitive’ skills between type B
and type D are
also obvious. Differences of skills between type A and type B in the left brain dominance are
larger at ‘intuitive’,
‘statistical’, ‘causing change’, and ‘visualizing’; Differences of skills between type C and type D
in the right brain
dominance ‘statistical’, ‘visualizing’, and ‘interpersonal’ than others. Differences of skills
dominances are greater in the diagonally opposing quadrant between type A and type C, type B
and D than
left/right dominances or cerebral/limbic modes. On the whole, the differences between left brain
and right one are
We examined the hypothesis 1 as (Table 4). We can assume that there are close relationships
types and skills.
d) Differences of the blocks to
idea generation under a specific
brain types are prominent. Firstly,
between type A and C as the
emotional, intellectual blocks are
prominent; between type B and D,
emotional, cultural, and perceptual
blocks are prominent. Secondly,
between type A and D as the same
cerebral dominance, emotional and
Table. 4 Relationship between Brain Types and Skills.
between type B and C as the same
limbic dominance, cultural and
perceptual block are salient. Thirdly,
between type A and B as the same
left brain dominance, cultural blocks
are remarkable: between type C and
D as the same right brain dominance,
emotional block are salient.(Fig.5)
On the whole, environmental and
intellectual blocks are not greater
than others. And emotional, cultural
and perceptual blocks have more
salient influence on idea generation.
From the experiments we coined
some findings as followings:
Firstly, we found some results that
Brain Dominance Modes reflect their specific characteristics in the major field of study. These
mean we can set up
more efficient Synergistic Extrinsic Motivator (SEM) for a problem solving with mixed majors.
Relationships between Brain types and blocks tell us that every brain type has some blocks.
However, these are
not typical ones in them. As results, we found that there are no fixed types of blocks in a brain
Brain Types and Blocks to Idea Generation
Fig. 5 Brain Types and Blocks to Idea Generation
In this paper, we examined the skills and blocks under each BDP and found the ways of breaking
making synergy through mental diversity from four quadrants. Our experience has shown there is
advantage to having all four thinking modes represented on a team rather than those with similar
is based on the findings that each brain dominance mode has its own processing modes, Skills.
could be continuously increased their dimensions through collaborative thinking process, which
is coined of
We have confirmed that the relationships between Brain Dominance Profile (BDP) and the Skills
And when we have mental diversity formed with BDP, it is conduced to the collaborative idea
The findings suggest that an approach for conducing the design idea generation through
Motivation(SEM). Also it is discussed the compound of dominances of four brain modes (A, B,
C, and D-Mode)
are significantly positive to the creativity.
Although, we have not yet identified the full extrinsic motivation, these findings support the
process, and these results are helpful to reinforce the bases for design idea generation. In order to
results, we need to apply these results into other problem solving fields. Also, it is necessary to do
more studies on
the cognitive thinking process. There seems to be a broad consensus among researchers that
internal, or intrinsic,
motivation is more effective determinant of creativity than external, or extrinsic, motivation.
We have noted several approaches to the enhancement of creativity which is suggested by the
thinking of many researchers in the field. In most cases, direct and compelling evidence of their
lacking. Situational and contextual variables may also interact with motivation to influence
understanding of the relationship between motivation and creativity cannot stand on its own but
complemented by attention to personality, talent, culture, cognition, and other factors affecting
The future of research on motivation and creativity holds many exciting new questions. Perhaps
promising area for future investigations of motivation and creativity concerns the consideration of
overcoming them in the Computer-Supported Environment.
This paper was supported by the research fund of “Seoul National University of Technology”
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18. ibid. p307