Possibilities of Brainstorming

Brainstorming as neologism began with Alex Osborn of the advertising agency BBDO in 1942. His primary concern was creative thinking. In general, classical brainstorming generally follows this pattern:

  • Gather a group of people
  • Decide on a duration and quantity of ideas desired
  • Solicit ideas from group members
  • No editing, snide comments, or insults
  • Collect ideas
  • Now, edit

As with many great, ideas, brainstorming has been criticized for the lack of focus on coming up with ideas of high quality. However, when we solicit ideas, we want to ask for enough of them that people have to start stretching to come up with any more. Some of these ideas will be off-the-wall and some will be worthless. Many of the ideas will arise from the experiences of the participants are thereby constrained by each individual’s life world.

The single person version of brainstorming is mind storming and follows the same general rules. In Micheal J. Gelb’s book, “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” we see this method of idea generation has been around for a long time. Some of the mind mapping tools provide a brainstorming mode that puts all the ideas in an easy to see format. Some individuals (Coyne & Coyne, Brainsteering) have recommended adding the use of pointed questions to the stew. All of these ideas are fine. We think even the potential for a great idea justifies the small amount of time it takes to conduct a brainstorming session. During our automotive engineering careers, we have used brainstorming for product improvements, new products, strategic directions, and marketing campaigns. At no point have we felt we were wasting our time.

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