Friday, 22 September 2017

Osborn & Brainstorming

I would be fairly sure that most of us would be familiar with the idea of brainstorming: that we get a group of people together, and come up with streamlined or creative ways of solving existing problems. The idea is that we don't put any construction or restraints on the ideas we generate, we simply record all the thoughts that spontaneously arise from the group. It doesn't matter how left-field things are: in fact, the more left-field, the better. This is a purely creative thinking exercise. The thinking of things is key.

Later we look at the ideas generated, and we begin to evaluate, critique and prioritise our answers. It is then ideas can be grouped, critical paths can be thought about, and other ideas brought in to plug gaps. What has been generated holistically can be focused to become a framework which can be applied to the real world problem that exists.

This is a very entrepreneurial tool. And a very easy one to use (providing you keep Mr Doubting Thomas in the cupboard).

What I didn't know was the history of the term. Brainstorming was created way back in 1948 by US advertising exec, Alex Osborn. He gave the word a rough outline of the process in his book, Your Creative Power. His idea was that the group would come to grips with barriers and issues in a “commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective” (Osborn, 1948, p. 265). Wow. Quite war-like, which I guess was a flavour of the  times. It was in his 1953 book, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving, that he detailed how brainstorming should work as a tool for creative thinking. 

And we still use his model, unchanged, seventy years later. Not bad.



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