What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming has taken the world by storm, where everyone seems to be doing some kind of “brainstorming” or other. But what exactly is brainstorming and how can one do it effectively?


What is brainstorming?

In simple terms, brainstorming can be defined as generating new and innovative ideas in a group. The term was first coined by Alex Faickney Osborn in his book Your Creative Power(1948)  where he described brainstorming as

‘brainstorm’ means using the brain to storm a creative problem and do so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective.

The word gained popularity and really took off after Osborn’s other publication called Applied Imagination.


Why Brainstorm?

Brainstorming is actually not so strenuous on the brain as one may think, even though the word implies it. You are not storming your brain down with ideas, nor are you causing any catastrophe in the wake of your storming session. In fact, it is meant to make the origin and development of ideas easier, and more seamless. According to Osborn, every participant storms the group with ideas and from those ideas, other brains derive even more ideas until there is a storm of ideas. It is best done in small to medium groups, as ideas seem to evolve and take shape when there are a controlled number of participants.

But that is not to say that one can’t brainstorm individually.

Brainstorming is meant to drive the creative process and bring out innovative and out-of-the box ideas.


Who Should Brainstorm?brainstorming

Recently, the act of brainstorming has spread far and wide. It has become a common technique of synergizing ideas during meetings in large corporations, small businesses, school classrooms, start-up businesses, and even family meetings.

Anyone can brainstorm. Brainstorming can be used from creating world-class technology, to finding creative solutions to real-world problems, to planning your next vacation. There are not limitations on when to use brainstorming. You can use creatively generated ideas in any aspect of business and personal life.


The misconception

A lot of people believe that brainstorming is just a free flow of ideas by anyone involved in the session. While this may be true, a shouting match where ideas are only being said and not really heard, is not really considered brainstorming. Sometimes, people even use this word interchangeably with any form of meeting where there was a discussion of ideas. But it is important that we differentiate plain meetings from brainstorming sessions.

One important difference between just a meeting and a proper creative brainstorming session is structure. Without structure and direction, a brainstorming session is unlikely to lead to any successful outcome. Most sessions that people think are brainstorming sessions might not even qualify as one, especially, if the session ended up stunting people’s creativity instead of enhancing and benefiting from it. We must save the creative brain from ill-run sessions!


How to get the best out of a session

If you want your brainstorming session to be of any use, there are one thing that you absolutely need to remember.

It is of the utmost importance that someone is in-charge. You need a facilitator. This may sound like the opposite of a creative session which brainstorming is supposed to be, but without someone in control, only the loudest ones in the group will contribute to the session, while others with brighter, bolder ideas may not even speak up. A facilitator is required who can strategically lure out all creative ideas while setting a mood of non-judgment.


10 best tools to brainstorm successfully

As I mentioned before, not every group session where ideas are discussed is qualified to be a successful brainstorming session. So, what makes a great, creative brainstorming session? What are the techniques that you as a facilitator can employ to get the best out of your sitting? What are the tools that you can use?

If you search online, you will be bombarded with multiple ideas left, right and centre. It is hard to choose which one is best for you with all the options out there. And you don’t even know if most of these techniques work.

Well, you have come to the right place to eliminate all the confusion. We have picked out the best tools for you to creatively brainstorm and get the most out of it. Each of the next ten articles in this series, will identify and discuss one technique or tool that you can use to run your next brainstorming session.

These ideas are tried and tested, and have stood the test of time. Many great innovations, advances and decisions have come out of using these techniques. These techniques bring out the best in creative thinking and problem solving. Imagine just bringing a bunch of people together and asking them, “what are your ideas?” How forthcoming do you think people will be? Not that much. But if you allow people to think differently by asking them the right questions and using the right tools, the creativity you can stir in people’s minds will astound you.

To give you a bit of an idea, here are the 10 ideas or techniques things that we will cover:

  • False faces
  • Slice and dice
  • Cherry split
  • Think bubbles
  • Scamper
  • Tug of War
  • Idea Box
  • Idea Grid
  • Lotus Blossom
  • Phoenix

I can see that you might be getting overwhelmed and there might be phrases here that you may never even have heard of. But with each post, you will get clarity and confusion will dissipate. We will discuss each technique in detail. You may even find that you are using some of these techniques or a combination of them without even being aware of it, and that’s great!

Now, of course you know that each individual person responds differently to the different techniques. Some brains just work differently than others, but the good news is that these techniques can be applied to the majority of the types of thinkers out there.