A Discussion on Brainstorming


An article entitled “Building a Better Brainstorm,” from the February 2013 issue of Fast Company Magazine, imagined a group of experts discussing the subject of brainstorming. This collection of experts—some alive, some dead, some who spoke with Fast Company for the article, and some whose quotes were taken from past interviews or published writing—give their opinion on how to make brainstorming effective and whether it is a worthwhile business tool.

In our intention fulfillment work at sr4 Partner, there are often multiple possibilities for how to best fulfill an intention – to the upper end of what’s possible. Brainstorming is a key tool that we as a company employ to provide our clients with exceptional solutions.

Although the article presents some mixed reviews about brainstorming and its effectiveness, two of my core beliefs about brainstorming were confirmed: The rules of brainstorming are alive and well; and there is something good to be said for group brainstorming.

The rules of brainstorming were defined in Alex Osborn’s book Applied Imagination, published in 1953. These are the rules:

  • Focus on quantity
  • Withhold criticism
  • Welcome unusual ideas
  • Combine and improve ideas

We are continually successful when using these as guidelines in our brainstorm sessions here at sr4. But like most things written in 1953 (a time before both microwave ovens and online shopping, two things I could not live without!), I take these rules with a grain of salt.

One of the cynics in this article stated that a good idea is a good idea regardless of the process you use to come up with it. I agree with that. I appreciate the rules for brainstorming, but a million dollar idea doesn’t need to be subjected to the full brainstorming process.

The power of brainstorming comes from two heads usually being better than one. Taking the group approach to creative problem solving is often the best practice. In this article, Keith Sawyer, author of the book Group Genius, advocates for group brainstorming, stating that it can motivate and build morale within corporate groups. Something that I’ve experienced with group brainstorming is that often the session has positive outcomes that go beyond a great idea. The camaraderie, fun, lively communication, and collective wisdom that show up in such a meeting are positives in their own right.

Decide for yourself how you feel about brainstorming - valuable tool or time misspent? Access the article here.

Abby @ sr4