Home > Cognition, creativity, Ideas, Methodology > The Value of Brainstorming in Education or Business

The Value of Brainstorming in Education or Business

One of the activities that I often use to get students to consider their own state of knowledge is brainstorming.

Brainstorming is a cognitive technique that is frequently employed in university seminars, corporate boardrooms and in k-12 classrooms to generate divergent thinking and alternatives to commonly held ideas or practices. Brainstorming is also  the cornerstone of the many lateral thinking exercises of creative thinking guru, Edward De Bono.

(This slideshare is best viewed by clicking to go to the slideshare site and then clicking the full screen icon)

Unfortunately, according to Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, research tells us that most brainstorming sessions are not as productive as they could be for the following reasons:

1. Insufficient time allotted and/or too low a quota of ideas to generate

2. Poor interpersonal group dynamics inhibiting participants from making contributions due to negativity, intimidation, apathy, intolerance or personal criticism

3.  Starting with whole group idea generation rather than building upon individual brainstorming with extended whole group idea generation

4. Absent or ineffective facilitation that is risk-averse, unprepared or biased, that reinforces rather than breaks down tendencies toward ” groupthink”.

Brainstorming properly requires anticipation of associative conceptual barriers to be broken ( inevitably, somebody will say  “You can’t do that”) or circumvented; motivated engagement by the participants; the devotion of adequate time and resources; and skillful management of group dynamics by the facilitator or teacher to keep groups moving forward, generating ideas.

With these cautions in mind, periodic brainstorming sessions can be a powerful tool to enhance creative thinking at school or in the workplace.

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  1. August 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Hello, My name is Stephen Harwick and I work for the Creative Education Foundation (CEF). I loved the slideshow especially because one of your top ten items was Deferring Judgment which is a principle we adhere to vigilantly. I also really liked your comment on how brainstorming can be less than effective when one doesn’t stick to the process.
    You mentioned divergent thinking as the goal of brainstorming but here I would have to disagree. I would say that the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible and that the quality of the ideas is a reflection of the quantity of ideas produced and built upon; and to do that in Creative Problem Solving one uses both divergent and convergent thinking.
    Here at CEF we promote the expansion of deliberate Creative Problem Solving (CPS); a technique that was created in the 1940s by Alex Osborn. Osborn was the inventor of brainstorming; which may be surprising for most to hear, and he set the groundwork for the science behind and the understanding of creativity (and he also founded our company).
    The CPS process has been honed and expanded upon over the years and validated by the research of Dr. Sidney J. Parnes and other top scientists in a variety of related fields. It is CEF’s mission to promote deliberate creativity to everyone and anyone to use in the personal and professional lives. Creativity isn’t for a select few- it is useful and applicable to everyone. If you want more information on the process or our organization please feel free to visit our website at: http://www.creativeeducationfoundation.org/ .

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