Efficient Brainstorming

Brainstorming or "organized ideation" (Osborn, 1948) or "applied imagination" (Osborn, 1953) is a fantastic way to achieve a variety of goals including:

  • Solving problems
  • Developing new ideas, perspectives & approaches
  • Generate possibilities & options
  • Identify & embrace diverse perspectives
  • Energize & engage learners

Maximizing Brainstorming Opportunities

  • Groups of 3 to 7 tend to be most effective & efficient
  • Purpose/goal is clearly stated & displayed
  • It can be productive to:
    • Have participants broadly research the topic, problem, goal prior to brainstorming
    • Provide 5-10 mins for individual brainstorming first
  • Start from a broad perspective
  • An effective facilitator should:
    • Have a variety of prompts that encourage differing idea modes
    • Seek to expand idea paradigms
      • Encourage 'free association
      • Build on ideas
    • Provide possible idea categories
    • When necessary,:
      • Redirect towards the purpose/goal
      • Create smaller groupsteams
  • Visually document the brainstorming session
  • Encourage further idea additions beyond the session

  • Osborn (1953) suggested specific criterion for effective initial brainstorming:
    • Quantity is better
      • Stay on topic
      • Quality will emerge later
    • Defer judgment
      • All ideas are acceptable
      • Be positive & open to all ideas
    • The more diverse, unique & impossible... the better
      • Wild ideas empower creative leaps
    • Be open to combine ideas
      • Build on other ideas
      • Diverge from them

Constraints Are Critical for Creative Success!


  • Can be in many forms such as the problem, goal, need, resources, laws, function, time, etc.
  • Provide the base for ideas
  • Should be embraced
  • Stimulate ideas

After the Initial Brainstorm......

  • Self-edit possibilities
    • Combine
    • Add to
    • Improve
    • Customize
    • Functional & futuristic
    • Eliminate
    • SCAMPER technique
  • Review & refine as a group
    • Open discussion focused on WHAT IS POSSIBLE
    • Consider what will be poossible in the near future
  • Decide & apply/utilize
    • Vote
    • There may be more than one viable, quality option


Adams, J.L. (1979). Conceptual blockbusting: A guide to better ideas. (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton

Osborn, A. (1948). Your creative power. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons

Osborn, A. F. (1953). Applied imagination: Principles and procedures of creative problem-solving. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons