"It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new
one."- Alex Osborn
That quote pretty much sums up Osborn's ideas on
brainstorming and creative thinking. Brainstorming is method of
thinking up solutions, ideas or new concepts. It can be a
difficult process for many reasons: sometimes people are
unwilling to suggest a solution for fear of criticism or the
problem may just be a very difficult one, and one that no
existing solutions exist for yet. Osborn's solution, as
suggested by the above quote, is to think up as many ideas as
possible regardless of how ridiculous they may seem at first.
Since it is very unlikely to think up the perfect solution right
off the bat, he recommends getting every idea out of your head
and then go back to examine them afterwards. An idea that may
have initially sounded off-the-wall may actually turn out to be a
plausible idea with a little modification. Osborn's technique of
deferred judgment increases the individual's synthesis
capabilities by releasing the human mind from the analysis mode
of thinking. Brainstorming is considered to be a group method of
listing suggested ideas pertaining to a solution for a specific
Creative thinking requires tools such as the brainstorm and
the affinity diagram. Brainstorming is simply listing all ideas
put forth by a group in response to a given problem or question.
In 1939, a team led by advertising executive Alex Osborn coined
the term "brainstorm." According to Osborn, " Brainstorm means
using thebrain to storm a creative
problem and to do so "in commando fashion, each stormer
audaciously attacking the same objective." Creativity is
encouraged by not allowing ideas to be evaluated or discussed
until everyone has run dry. Any and all ideas are considered
legitimate and often the most far-fetched are the most fertile.
Structured brainstorming produces numerous creative ideas about
any given "central question". Done right, it taps the human
brain's capacity for lateral thinking and free association.
Other rules for brainstorming according to Osborn include
creating an environment where team members are not criticized for
their ideas. Ideas can be evaluated after the brainstorming
session but judgments during the process will only alienate team
members. Also, after the idea generating process team members
should try to combine and modify ideas.
The technique of brainstorming takes place in a panel format.
The brainstorming panel is composed of a leader, recorder, and
panel members. The leader is responsible for maintaining a rapid
flow of ideas while the recorder lists all the ideas as they are
presented. The size of the panel may vary but a range of 10 to
12 is usually optimum. If the group were to get to large there
is a greater chance of members remaining in the background or
that the members would not have enough time to express their
ideas in a reasonable amount of time.
These practices are essential to any brainstorming process,
but many people have criticized Osborn's methods as incomplete.
For instance he does not suggest that team members prepare for
brainstorming sessions. Another downfall of Osborn's teaching is
that he does not offer and tools or exercises for coming up with
creative ideas in the first place. However limited his methods
may be they are productive means of acquiring new and innovative
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