Alex Osborn, the father of brainstorming, found that people who followed his rules didn’t stare at each other in embarrassment or run out of the room screaming during a brainstorming session – instead, they generated a lot more ideas.

He also found that more ideas created better ideas.

We suggest always linking group brainstorming to other work practices – doing research, testing ideas or reflecting on practice. And ideas need to be acted on to be good ideas.

Alex Osborn’s brainstorming rules

  • Ban criticism of ideas. Only when brainstorming is finished do you go through the ideas and begin narrowing the list.
  • Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas.
  • Aim for a large number of ideas – focus on quantity, not quality.
  • Build on each other’s ideas.

Facilitating a brainstorm – 7 tips

  • Follow Osborn’s rules.
  • Link to a serious deadline – this helps people to suspend judgment and other mental blocks and frees up their imagination.
  • Do not announce a brainstorm and then speak for half an hour about your own ideas.
  • When people think they are finished, get everyone to add more ideas. After the ideas have been exhausted, more innovation and creativity can surface.
  • Do individual brainstorming before and/or after the group session to generate more ideas.
  • Use pauses to get people thinking; quiet pauses can enable ‘quieter’ members to be more active by giving them a chance to ‘get a word in edgewise’ when vocal participants might dominate the floor
  • Delegate authority to the group so that they don’t look to you for answers – let the information come from them.