Brainstorming is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a specific problem by a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members.

The term was popularized by Alex Faickney Osborn in the 1953 book Applied Imagination .


Alex F. Osborn, executive director, creative methods for creative problem-solving in 1939. He was frustrated by employees’ inability to develop creative ideas. In response, he began hosting group-thinking sessions and discovered a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of ideas produced by employees. Osborn outlined his method in the 1948 book Your Creative Power in chapter 33, “How to Organize a Squad to Create Ideas”. [1]

Osborn’s method

Osborn asked that these principles contribute to “ideative efficacy,” these being:

  1. Defer judgment,
  2. Reach for quantity. [2]

Following these two principles are his general rules of brainstorming, established with intention to:

  • social inhibitions among group members.
  • stimulate idea generation.
  • increase overall creativity of the group.
  1. Go for quantity : This rule is a moyen de Enhancing divergent production aiming to Facilitate problem solving through the maxim quantity breeds quality . The assumption is that the greater the number of the general ideas of the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
  2. Withhold criticism : In brainstorming, criticism of ideas generated should be put ‘on hold’. Instead, participants should focus on extending or adding to ideas, reserving criticism for a later critical stage of the process. By suspending judgment, participants will feel free to generate unusual ideas.
  3. Welcome wild ideas : To get a good list of suggestions, wild ideas are encouraged. They can be generated by new perspectives and suspending assumptions. These new ways of thinking might give you better solutions.
  4. Combine and improve ideas : As suggested by the slogan “1 + 1 = 3”. It is believed to stimulate the building of ideas by a process of association . [2]


Osborn notes that brainstorming should address a specific question; he held that multiple sessions addressing issues were inefficient.

Further, the problem must require the generation of ideas rather than judgment; he uses these examples as if they are possible for a brainstorming material. [2]


Osborn envisioned groups of around 12 participants, including both experts and novices. Participants are encouraged to provide wild and unexpected answers. Ideas receive no criticism or discussion. The group simply provides ideas that can lead to a solution. The judgments are reserved for a later date. [2]


Nominal technical group

Main article: nominal technical group

Participants are asked to write their ideas anonymously. Then the facilitator collects the ideas and the group votes on each idea. The vote can be as simple as a show of hands in favor of a given idea. This process is called distillation.

After distillation, the top ranked ideas may be sent back to the group or to subgroups for further brainstorming. For example, one group may work on the color required in a product. Another group may work on the size, and so forth. Each group will come back to the whole group for the listed ideas. Sometimes the ideas have been brought back to the table.

It is important that the facilitator be trained in this process before attempting this technique. The group should be primed and encouraged to embrace the process. Like all team efforts, it can take a few practice sessions to train the team before tackling the important ideas.

Group passing technique

Each person in a group group writes down one idea, and then passes the piece of paper to the next person, who adds some thoughts. This continues to be his last piece of paper back. By this time, it is likely that the group will have extensively elaborated on each idea.

The group may also create an “idea book” and post a distribution list or route to the front of the book. On the first page is a description of the problem. The first person to receive the book lists his or her ideas and then routes the book to the next person on the distribution list. The second person can log new ideas or add to the ideas of the previous person. This continues until the distribution list is exhausted. A follow-up “read out” meeting is then held to discuss the ideas logged in the book. This technique takes longer, but it allows you to think deeply about the problem.

Team idea mapping method

This method of brainstorming works by the method of association . It is possible to collaborate and increase the quantity of ideas

The process begins with a well-defined topic. Each participant brainstorms individually, then all the ideas are merged onto one large idea map. During this consolidation phase, participants may discover a common understanding of the issues as they share the meanings behind their ideas. During this sharing, new ideas can be found by the association, and they are added to the map. Once all the ideas are captured, the group can prioritize and / or take action. [3]

Directed brainstorming

Directed brainstorming is a variation of electronic brainstorming (described below). It can be done manually or with computers. Directed brainstorming works when the solution space is known prior to the session. If known, these criteria may be used to constrain the Ideation process intentionally.

In directed brainstorming, each participant is given a sheet of paper (or electronic form) and told the brainstorming question. They are asked to produce a response and then all of the papers (or forms) are randomly swapped among the participants. The participants are asked to look at the idea that they have a new idea. The forms are then swapped again and again and again,

In the laboratory, the brainstorming has been found to almost triple the productivity of groups over electronic brainstorming. [4]

Guided brainstorming [edit] A guided brainstorming session is set aside to brainstorm either individually or as a collective group on a particular subject under the constraints of perspective and time. This type of brainstorming removes all causes of conflict and constrains conversations while stimulating critical and creative thinking in an engaging, balanced environment.

Participants are asked to adopt different mindsets for their pre-defined period of time while contributing their ideas to a central mind map drawn up by a pre-appointed scribe. Having examined a multi-perspective point of view, participants seemingly see the simple solutions that collectively create greater growth. Action is assigned individually.

Following a guided brainstorming session participants in the field of brainstorming, research and questions remaining unanswered and a prioritized, actionable list that leaves everyone with a clear understanding of what needs to happen next and the ability to visualize the future combined focus greater goals of the group.

Individual brainstorming

“Individual brainstorming” is the use of brainstorming in solitary situations. Typically it includes technical Such as free writing , free speaking, word association, and drawing a mind map , qui est a visual technical Taking notes in qui people diagram Their thoughts. Individual brainstorming is a Useful Method in creative writing and has-been shown to be superior to traditional group brainstorming. [5] [6]

Question brainstorming

This process involves brainstorming the questions , rather than trying to come up with immediate answers and short term solutions. Theoretically, this technique should not inhibit participation as there is no need to provide solutions. The answers to the questions form the framework for constructing future action plans. Once the list of questions is set, it is necessary to prioritize them to reach the best solution in an orderly way. [7]

“Questorming” is another term for this mode of inquiry. [8]

Electronic brainstorming (EBS)

See also: Brainstorming software and Electronic meeting system

Although the brainstorming can take place online through widely available technologies such as email or interactive web sites, there are also many efforts to develop computer software that can replace or enhance one or more elements of the brainstorming process.

Early efforts, such as GroupSystems at the University of Arizona [9] or Software Aided Meeting Management (SAMM) system at the University of Minnesota, [10] took advantage of new computer networking technology. rallies. When using these electronic meeting systems(EMS, as they came to be called), group members simultaneously and independently entered the computer terminal. The software collected (or “pools”) the ideas into a list, which could be displayed on a central projection screen (anonymized if desired). Other elements of these EMSs could support additional activities such as categorization of ideas, elimination of duplicates, and assessment of controversial ideas. Later EMSs capitalized on advances in computer networking and internet protocols to support asynchronous brainstorming sessions over extended periods of time and multiple locations

Introduced along with the EMS by Nunamaker and colleagues at the University of Arizona [9] was electronic brainstorming (EBS). By Utilizing customized computer software for groups ( group decision supporting systems or groupware ), EBS can replace face-to-face brainstorming. [22] An example of groupware is the GroupSystems, a software developed by University of Arizona. [9] After an idea discussion posted on GroupSystems , it is displayed on each group member’s computer. As group members of the same group, their comments are anonymous, and they are anonymously pooled and made available to all members for evaluation and further elaboration.[9]

Compared to face-to-face brainstorming, not only does EBS improve efficiency by eliminating tracking and turn-taking during group discussions, it also includes several face-to-face meetings. Identified by Gallupe and colleagues, [23] both production blocking and evaluation apprehension. them) are reduced in EBS. [22] These positive psychological effects increase with group size. [3]A perceived advantage of EBS is that they can be archived electronically in their original form, and then retrieved later for further thought and discussion. EBS also would be much more important to brainstorming than it would normally be productive in a traditional brainstorming session. [4]

Computer supported brainstorming can overcome some of the challenges faced by traditional brainstorming methods. For example, ideas might be “pooled” automatically, so that individuals do not need to wait to take a turn, as in verbal brainstorming. Some software programs are generated (via chat room or e-mail). The display of ideas may be cognitively stimulating brainstormers, as their attention is kept on the subject of being able to communicate with others. [3]Technical EBS have been shown to produce more ideas and help individuals focus their attention on the ideas of others better than a technical brainwriting (participants write individual written notes in silence and then prefer to communicate with the group). [3] The production of more ideas has been linked to the fact that it is paying attention to the others’ ideas leads to non-redundancy. Conversely, the production gain associated with EBS has been found in many countries. The production gain associated with GroupSystemDugosh and colleagues. [21] EBS group members who were instructed to wait for ideas generated by others who were not in terms of creativity.

According to a meta-analysis comparing EBS to face-to-face brainstorming conducted by DeRosa and colleagues [20] , EBS has been found to enhance both the production of non-redundant ideas and the quality of ideas produced. Despite the advantages demonstrated by EBS groups, EBS group members reported less satisfaction with the brainstorming process compared to face-to-face brainstorming group members.

Some web-based brainstorming techniques allow contributors to post their comments anonymously through the use of avatars. This technique also permits users to log on to an extended period of time, usually allowing one or two weeks to allow participants some “soak time” before posting their ideas and feedback. This technique has been used extensively in the field of new product development, but can be applied in any number of areas. quote needed ]

Some limitations of EBS include the fact that it can be used by many people in their social and economic life. quote needed ]


Some research indicates that incentives can increase creative processes. Participants were divided into three conditions. In Condition I, a flat fee was paid to all participants. In Condition II, participants were awarded points for each unique idea of ​​their own, and they were paid for the points they earned. In Condition III, subjects were paid based on the impact that their idea had on the group; This was measured by the number of group ideas derived from the specific subject’s ideas. Condition III outperformed Condition II, and Condition II outperformed Condition I is a statistically significant level for most measures. The results demonstrated that participants were willing to work in the expectation of compensation. [11]

Challenges to effective group brainstorming

A good deal of researches Osborn’s claim that group brainstorming could generate more than working alone. [6] For example, in a review of 22 studies of brainstorming group, Michael Diehl and Wolfgang Stroebe found that, overwhelmingly, groups brainstorming together produce fewer ideas than individuals working separately. [12] However, this conclusion is brought into question by Scott G. Isaksen, who has made misunderstanding of the tool, and weak application of the methods, and the artificiality of the problems. and groups undermined most such studies, and the validity of their conclusions. [13]

Several factors can contribute to a loss of effectiveness in brainstorming group.

Blocking :

Main article: Production blocking

Because only one participant can give an idea to any one time, other participants may have missed the idea. [14] Further, if we view brainstorming a cognitive process in which “a participant general ideas ideas (generation process) and stores them in short-term memory (memorization process) and then eventually extracts some of them from its short-term memory to express them (output process) “, then blocking is an even more important challenge because it can also inhibit a person’s train of thought in generating their own ideas and remembering them. [15]

Collaborative fixation : Exchanging ideas in a group. Members may also conform to their ideas to those of other members, even if the overall number of ideas might not decrease. [16]

Rating apprehension: Evaluation apprehension was determined to occur only in instances of personal evaluation. If the assumption of collective assessment is in place, real-time judgment of ideas, ostensibly an induction of apprehension, failed to induce significant variance. [6] [17]

Free-writing : Individuals may feel that their ideas are valuable when combined with the ideas of the group at large. Indeed, Diehl and Stroebe demonstrated that even when they worked alone, they produced fewer ideas than they would have in their output. However, experimentation reveals a marginal contributor to productivity loss, and type of session (ie, real vs. nominal group) contributed much more. [6]

Personality characteristics : Extroverts have been shown to outperform introvert in computer mediated groups. The invention of the invention is also more complicated and more introverted than when they are used in the field of brainstorming. [18]

Social matching : One phenomenon of group brainstorming is that participants will tend to alter their rate of productivity to match others in the group. This can lead to participants if they perceive themselves to be more productive than the average group. The same phenomenon can also increase an individual’s rate of production to meet the average group. [12] [19]

See also

  • 6-3-5 Brainwriting
  • Affinity diagram
  • Group concept mapping
  • Eureka effect
  • Lateral thinking
  • Mass collaboration
  • Nominal technical group
  • Speed ​​thinking
  • Thinking outside the box
  • What? Where? When?


  1. Jump up^ Lehrer, Jonah. “GROUPTHINK” . New Yorker . Retrieved 23 October2013 .
  2. ^ Jump up to:d Osborn, AF (1963) Applied imagination: Principles and procedures of creative problem solving (Third Revised Edition). New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sounds.
  3. Jump up^ “What is Mind Mapping?” (And How to Get Started Immediately) ” . 2007-08-07 . Retrieved 2012-11-24 .
  4. Jump up^ Santanen, E., Briggs, RO, & Vreede, GJ. (2004). Causal Relationships in Creative Solving Problem: Comparing Facilitation Interventions for Ideation. Journal of Management Information Systems20 (4), 167-198.
  5. Jump up^ Furnham, A., & Yazdanpanahi, T. (1995). Personality differences and group versus individual brainstorming. Personality and Individual Differences,19, 73-80.
  6. ^ Jump up to:d Michael Diehl; Wolfgang Stroebe (1991). “Productivity Loss in Idea-Generating Groups: Tracking Down the Blocking Effect”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . 61 (3): 392-403. doi : 10.1037 / 0022-3514.61.3.392 .
  7. Jump up^ Ludy, J. Perry Profit Building: Cutting Costs Without Cutting People. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler, Inc., 2000. Print.
  8. Jump up^ Questorming: An Outline of the Method, Jon Roland, 1985
  9. Jump up^ Nunamaker, Jay; Dennis, Alan; Valacich, Joseph; Vogel, Doug; George Joey (1991). “Electronic Meeting Systems to Support Group Work”. Communications of the ACM . 34 (7): 40-61. doi : 10.1145 / 105783.105793 .
  10. Jump up^ DeSanctis, Gerardine ; Poole, MS; Zigurs, I .; et al. (2008). “The Minnesota GDSS research project: Group support systems, group processes, and outcomes”. Journal of the Association for Information Systems . 9 (10): 551-608.
  11. Jump up^ Toubia, Olivier. “Idea Generation, Creativity, and Incentives” (PDF) . Marketing Science . Retrieved 28 April 2011 .
  12. ^ Jump up to:b Michael Diehl; Wolfgang Stroebe (1987). “Productivity Loss in Brainstorming Groups: Toward the Solution of a Riddle”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . 53 (3): 497-509. doi : 10.1037 / 0022-3514.53.3.497 .
  13. Jump up^ Scott, Isaksen (June 1988). “A Review of Brainstorming Research: Six Critical Issues for Inquiry” (PDF) . Creative Problem Solving Group Buffalo . Creative Problem Solving Group Buffalo . Retrieved 22 June 2016.
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  15. Jump up^ Haddou, HA; G. Camilleri; P. Zarate (2014). “Prediction of ideas number during a brainstorming session”. Group Decision and Negotiation . 23 (2): 285. doi : 10.1007 / s10726-012-9312-8 .
  16. Jump up^ Kohn, Nicholas; Smith, Steven M. (2011). “Collaborative fixation: Effects of others’ ideas on brainstorming”. Applied Cognitive Psychology . 25 (3): 359-371. doi : 10.1002 / acp.1699 .
  17. Jump up^ “23 Creativity Killers That Will Drown Any Brainstorming Session” . BoostCompanies . 2016-05-31 . Retrieved 2016-10-24 .
  18. Jump up^ Henningsen, David Dryden; Henningsen, Mary Lynn Miller (2013). “Generating Ideas About the Uses of Brainstorming: Reconsidering the Losses and Gains of Brainstorming Groups Relative to Nominal Groups”. Southern Communication Journal . 78 (1): 42-55. doi : 10.1080 / 1041794X.2012.717684 .
  19. Jump up^ Brown, V .; Paulus, PB (1996). “A simple dynamic model of social factors in brainstorming group”. Small Group Research . 27 : 91-114. doi :10.1177 / 1046496496271005 .