The brainstorming method of problem solving is a technique given its name by
Alex Osborn, the founder of the advertising firm of Batten, Barten, Durstine and
Osborn. Brainstorming groups usually consist of from 5 to 12 people who bombard
a specific problem with diverse ideas. Four basic rules govern a brainstorming
1) Judgments of suggested ideas are suspended until later so that the group can
proceed more with generating ideas than defending them. Negative looks,
expressions and mannerism should be avoided by members. Avoid even "That's a
good idea" type remarks, because they are still judgments.
2) Participants are encouraged to think of the wildest most spontaneous ideas possible
and attack the problem with no holds barred.
3) An enthusiastic quantity of ideas is encouraged, because quantity increases the
likelihood of obtaining some good solutions.
4) Participants are encouraged to build upon the ideas of the others to turn them into
better ideas or modify two or more ideas in combination to produce a better idea.
Brainstorming's growth came from a 12-man brainstorm panel which is still the
size frequently used, although 7-member teams have become quite popular as well.
To create a brainstorm panel, select people with a diversity of specialties, attitudes
and backgrounds and perhaps only one member being very familiar with the material
being brainstormed. Define the problem specifically and simply, avoiding vagueness
As a brainstorm leader, diplomatically guide the group without creating a for-
bidding atmosphere. Like a good team captain, stay in the background yourself and
do not to take credit for the group's progress and accomplishments. Create an
atmosphere of encouragement and select a location conducive to good results. For
instance, holding a brainstorming session in an uncomfortable or noisy office could
prove inhibiting. On the other hand, yellow walls, modern art and a bit of music in
the background all seem to contribute to creativity in brainstorming rooms.
A written record of the session's ideas should be kept. When later these ideas are
evaluated for their usefulness, the entire list will serve as a basis for possible
solutions. The principal value of group brainstorming is the fact that it can produce
far more good ideas than a conventional conference, and in far less time.
In actual practice, a brainstorming session can even be used by yourself, if you
adhere to the same four basic rules. As an exercise, apply these same rules to a problem of your own without any group assistance. Secure a comfortable and quiet
surrounding. With pencil and paper, write a sentence specifically outlining your
problem. Surprisingly, simply defining the situation begins to produce a flurry of
possible solutions. When the flurry starts, write down key words without
elaboration to allow the flow to rapidly proceed along.
To facilitate the definition process, write at least 3 additional ways of outlining the
problem. What is it you really want or find dissatisfactory in your present situation?
Realize that all problems appear simple after the solution is found. See in your
mind's eye the pleasant outcome to finding the solution. Separate the problem into
segments to make the steps in solving it more manageable. And finally, once the
pondering has been completed, initiate some kind of action toward achieving results.
You'll find that getting started on it carries a momentum that creates a vibration to
figuring the rest out along the way. Be courageous and trust in yourself. Everything
is far simpler if you look at it that way. Practice internal brainstorming on different
problems and soon a free flow of thoughts will become a natural process.
Brainstorming Problem: Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and the
U.S. has one of the highest crime rates. What procedure can be used to sharply
reduce the crime rate in America quickly?