Brainstorming: essence, rules and steps
Alex Osborn (May 24, 1888 Bronx, New York – May 5, 1966 Buffalo, New York). American сreativity theorist and advertising executive He was one of the initiators of the creation of the advertising agency BBDO (Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn).
In 1954 Osborn co-founded the Creative Education Foundation’s Creative Problem Solving Institute based in Buffalo (New York). Along with Sidney Parnes, he also developed the creativity technique (CPS) “Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process”.
Brainstorming was developed by around the years 1939 -1941. The procedures and rules of this creativity technique had been defined and appeared in Alex Osborn book “Applied Imagination” (1953).
3. Description of the method
Brainstorming is one of the oldest, most recognized, and powerful problem solving technique and effective creative tool for divergent idea generation used in small, specifically organized groups.
It involves a well-trained leader – facilitator, group of different from each other and equal participants (3-12 persons), a secretary, a well-defined problem, and a two separated stages session (idea generation, idea evolution), which normally lasts for 1-1,5 hour.
4. Main functions
1. Brainstorming is a powerful tool in Creative Problem Solving. This technique helps to create new productive ideas and mainly solves a applied and specific, not complex and multifaceted problems.
2. Brainstorming motivates and develops teams, emphasize teamwork and discussion. Namely group work provide a wide range of alternatives and a variety of viewpoints and a collection of productive, fresh, new ideas.
5. Methodological and theoretical grounds
1. Understanding of human creativity as the process of self-organization, as spontaneous emergence of order out of seeming disorder. Willing acceptance of uncertainty is the path to creative freedom and new possibilities, and directed ordering of disorder will spontaneously emerge solutions of the problem.
2. There is an analogy between creativity and the evolutionary process in nature. According to these approaches, creativity is a Darwinian process, a “blind-variation-selective-retention process” (BVSR) (Campbell 1960). Namely richness and diversity of life forms as the base of changes, development and creative emergence of new forms.
6. The essence of the method
The essence of brainstorming method is a divergent thinking, namely generating a large quantity of different ideas and hence a generation of diversity. Moreover namely generating wrong, stupid and silly ideas could spark off the most useful and pragmatical ideas.
The most criterian of brainstormig is the sheer number of genereted ideas. The main psychological purpose is overcoming and inherent inner and social barriers, breaking down a mental blocks, habitus, stereotypes and inertia thinking and produce a set of ideas from which participants can choose the best.
The main goal of leader is making of a creative friendly atmosphere of comfort and confidence, where the participants freely, spontaneously and gladly put forward a new ideas.
7. Fundamental principles
1. Quantity breeds quality.
2. Deferred judgment about the ideas value.
1. Criticism of an idea is ruled out.
2. Freewheeling and unusual ideas are welcomed.
3. Quantity of ideas is wanted.
4. Combining and improving ideas.
9. Procedure and steps
The facilitator arranges the meeting for a group of the right size and makeup (ideally 4-8 people).
The facilitator conduct warm-up session, generating a creative atmosphere and criticism-free environment. He encourages creativity and an enthusiastic behaviour in the group.
1. The facilitator clearly define the problem and the objectives to achieve
writing it on a flipboard, whiteboard or other system where everyone can see it.
2. He reviews the ground rules instructs the participants to generate ideas and encourages everyone to contribute. Facilitator Asks group to generate as many ideas as possible, emphasizing that wild, seemingly wacky ideas are welcome.
3. All participants present their ideas, and the facilitator or idea collector records them. All ideas will be accepted and registered. It is useful for all ideas to remain visible to help trigger further ideas. Participants can use each other’s ideas to trigger their own thinking.
4. The facilitator organizes the ideas based on the topic goal and encourages participants to work on other people’s ideas, in order to improve them. He encourages cross-fertilization of ideas, invates to combine, synergize, and improve upon ideas.
5. The group itself, or special group of critics, evaluate the ideas and select one as the solution to the problem proposed to the group.
6. The facilitator clarifies the solution and concludes the session.
• The rules of brainstorming is easy to understand, easy to master and use.
• It is inexpensive, simple technique, that requires few material resources.
• Many ideas can be generated in a short time.
• Encourages creative thinking and thinking “out of the box”.
• One idea can spark off other ideas.
• Is a democratic, fun and exiting way of generating ideas.
• Provides an opportunity for widespread participation and involvement.
• Everyone can be involved equally, every idea is a worthy one.
• Spirit of cooperation is created.
• Develops a creative abilities and creative thinking of group members.
• Universality of the method and possibility to combine it with other technique.
11. Disadvantages and Restrictions
• Requires an experienced and sensitive facilitator
• Can be chaotic, unfocused and intimidating.
• Can take too much time if the group is not properly controlled.
• If not managed well, criticism and negative evaluation may occur.
• More discrete participants might find it difficult to express their crazy ideas.
• Lack of reliable criteria that determine the quality of solutions.