Causal relationships in creative problem solving: Comparing facilitation interventions for ideation

Eric L. Santanen, Robert O. Briggs, Gert Jan De Vreede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Organizations must be creative continuously to survive and thrive in today's highly competitive, rapidly changing environment. A century of creativity research has produced several descriptive models creativity, and hundreds of prescriptions for interventions that demonstrably improve creativity. This paper presents the cognitive network model (CNM) as a causal model of the cognitive mechanisms that give rise to creative solutions in the human mind. The model may explain why creativity prescriptions work as they do. The model may also provide a basis for deriving new techniques to further enhance creativity. The paper tests the model in an experiment where 61 four-person groups used either free-brainstorming or one of three variations on directed-brainstorming to generate solutions for one of two unstructured tasks. In both tasks, people using directed-brainstorming produced more solutions with high creativity ratings, produced solutions with higher average creativity ratings, and produced higher concentrations of creative solutions than did people using free-brainstorming. Significant differences in creativity were also found among the three variations on directed-brainstorming. The findings were consistent with the CNM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-198
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Management Information Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Brainstorming
  • Cognitive models
  • Creativity
  • Facilitation
  • Group problem solving
  • Group support systems
  • Idea generation
  • Ideation
  • ThinkLets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Information Systems and Management

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