brainstormingIn a 1953 book entitled “applied Imagination”, Alex Osborn, an advertising exec first coined the word “brainstorming”. This book is considered to be the original approach to what brainstorming has evolved into today. Many improvements have obviously been made by many, through succeeding years, to his original concepts and techniques.

Even before Alex Osborn, people used brainstorming as a way to generate ideas, even if they did not know what they were doing at the time. The same applies today, and many people have used this technique, even if they did not know that this was what they were doing. It is the way we think up creative solutions for problems, or simply creative applications for whatever we might have need of.

Lateral thinking is key in this process which takes a relaxed, or informal approach. Sometimes these ideas may even seem to be a little nuts at the time. But with a encouragement nutty ideas can give birth to all kinds of concepts, which may not seem to be crazy at all. It shocks people out of their ‘conventional’ way of thinking, and helps them to truly apply imagination. For brainstorming to be effective it also needs to be used correctly.

Getting the best from these imagination sessions, means not limiting creativity, or being critical regarding concepts – it is meant to be fun. We are in the process of opening up to all possibilities, and the one thing we do not want to do is stunt the generation of ideas. Criticism has the tendency to make people clam-up, and not share what they are thinking. The all ideas can be evaluated once a brainstorming session is complete. Thereafter more conventional approaches may be used to investigate further.

Conventional problem solving is often a structured, analytical process, while brainstorming should take place in an open-minded environment. Take the Google dream-team environment for example, and the massive success this company has enjoyed due to their Google-iness, and relentless innovation. This type of “openness” encourages group participation, where idiosyncratic ideas are made welcome. In their case, a valuable selection of spirited, creative solutions comes about consistently.

Team members who are able to offer their diverse expertise are generally more committed to a chosen solution, especially if they have been instrumental in the development of it. It helps to create a bond between members of a participating group

There is no doubt about the fact that group brainstorming is proven to be highly effective, but individual brainstorming can be even more effective. During group sessions ‘blocking’ often takes place. This is the effect of one, or more team member paying too much attention to what other group members are contributing. They are not exercising or sharing ideas, perhaps they may spend too much time waiting for a turn to speak, and simply give up or forget.

Studies have indicated that this process in an individual can produce better, and often more innovative ideas than a group session. When we brainstorm alone, we don’t have to worry about other people’s egos or opinions. This means freer, and more creative imagination, and often solutions to highly complex problems.