<Back to Articles Page
The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
technical than you think, December 22, 2006, 2D.
“Brainstorming” is a term that people often use to describe
finding a solution to a problem. What many people do not
realize is that brainstorming is a technique with specific
rules and procedures. It is really more of an
idea-generation technique than a “solution” technique.
Brainstorming is designed to tap into the power of groups to
develop a list of possible solutions to a problem.
can outperform individuals on both physical and mental
tasks. With physical tasks, multiple individuals can carry
more weight, move more things, cover more territory, and
make more contacts than a single person. Workloads can be
shared among group members on physical tasks. On mental
tasks, groups can also outperform individuals because of the
different experiences, knowledge, and perspectives that
members possess and use to solve mental problems. When
individual members collectively use their past experiences
to solve a common group problem, richer and better solutions
arise than when only a single perspective is tapped—this is
a key principle of brainstorming.
problem-solving process involves several distinct steps.
The first step is problem definition, followed by the
generation of alternative solutions, selection of an
alternative, implementation of the alternative, and
evaluation and feedback. The chosen solutions should be
legal and ethical. Brainstorming is a technique that is
used to develop a list of alternative solutions to a
problem—some end up being routine and some creative. As
described by Alex F. Osborn, the father of brainstorming,
the rules for brainstorming are:
Groups should consist of five to seven people.
Everybody should be given the chance to contribute.
criticism is allowed during the idea generation phase.
Freewheeling and outlandish ideas should be encouraged.
“Piggybacking” off others’ ideas should be encouraged.
greater the quantity and variety of ideas, the better.
Ideas should be recorded.
After all of the ideas have been generated, each idea
should be evaluated in terms of the pros and cons, costs
and benefits, feasibility, and so on.
Requiring groups to have five to seven people and having
them all contribute ideas allows the power of groups to come
into play. When groups are too small, there are not enough
different past experiences to draw upon. When groups become
too large, the forces that inhibit individual participation
become more prominent. With brainstorming, the alternatives
suggested by group members should be spoken without thought
of fear or evaluation. People should feel free to suggest
any ideas that come to their minds. Silly-seeming or
outlandish ideas should be encouraged because they might
spark creative ideas in others that could lead to
exceptional solutions. All ideas should be recorded. Idea
feasibility should only be assessed after time has been
called to cease generating ideas.
Brainstorming techniques allow groups to generate many
possible solutions to problems. Through the processes of
generating and evaluating a large number of possible
solutions, an unobvious, outstanding, and one-in-a-million
solution might be discovered.
to Articles Page