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Brainstorming is a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s). The term was popularized by Alex Faickney Osborn in the 1953 book Applied Imagination. Osborn claimed that brainstorming was more effective than individuals working alone in generating ideas, although more recent research has questioned this conclusion. Today, the term is used as a catch all for all group ideation sessions.

"Individual brainstorming" is the use of brainstorming in solitary. It typically includes such techniques as free writing, free speaking, word association, and drawing a mind map, which is a visual note taking technique in which people diagram their thoughts. Individual brainstorming is a useful method in creative writing and has been shown to be superior to traditional group brainstorming.

Research has shown individual brainstorming to be more effective in idea-generation than group brainstorming.

Some research indicates that incentives can augment creative processes. Participants were divided into three conditions. In Condition I, a flat fee was paid to all participants. In the Condition II, participants were awarded points for every unique idea of their own, and subjects were paid for the points that they earned. In Condition III, subjects were paid based on the impact that their idea had on the group; this was measured by counting the number of group ideas derived from the specific subject's ideas. Condition III outperformed Condition II, and Condition II outperformed Condition I at a statistically significant level for most measures. The results demonstrated that participants were willing to work far longer to achieve unique results in the expectation of compensation.

Some research claims to refute Osborn's claim that group brainstorming could generate more ideas than individuals working alone. Research from Michael Diehl and Wolfgang Stroebe demonstrated that groups brainstorming together produce fewer ideas than individuals working separately. Their conclusions were based on a review of 22 other studies, 18 of which corroborated their findings.[1]