Brainstorming?…Alex Osborn Tool–brainstorming?..the misused cliche?

Idea Generation

Hundreds to a few thousand different and in many cases similar Idea Generating Tools and Techniques have been created over the centuries from whatever techiques Lenny from da Vinci used to Tom from Michigan to Walt from the midwest to artists, writers, inventors, business people and other hosts of thinkers who found just sitting there waiting for a MUSE to show up didn’t work.

This page was created to share studies about BRAINSTORMING, the idea generating tool/technique first invented and named by Alex Osborn in the late 30s and written about and described in a mix of books by him in the 1940s and 50s.  Not about the poor studies that supposedly debunked or discredit Osborn’s Brainstorming by using the same word brainstorming but using it as a cliche or hackneyed term representing anytime some people are together and asked to generate ideas or work on a problem.

Here is a reference to a source you may read along with the growing number of others posted on this webpage.

Dr. Cabra and Dr. Gerard Puccio (Director of ICSC at Buff State) wrote a chapter for Michael Mumford on Idea Generation and Idea Evaluation. In our review we found some excellent resources on idea evaluation, one of the best sources included a detailed description of objective criteria for evaluating ideas. See Dean, D. L., Hender, J. M., Rodgers, T. L., & Santanen, E. L. (2006). Identifying quality, novel, and creative ideas: Constructs and scales for idea evaluation. Journal of the Association of Information Systems, 7, 647-695.


Brainstorming is “a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members” (Alex Osborn)

Brainstorming is a process designed to obtain the maximum number of ideas relating to a specific area of interest.

Brainstorming is a technique that maximizes the ability to generate new ideas.

Brainstorming is where a group of people put social inhibitions and rules aside with the aim of generating new ideas and solutions.

Brainstorming is a time dedicated to generating a large number of ideas regardless of their initial worth.

Brainstorming is a part of problem solving which involves the creation of new ideas by suspending judgment.

Brainstorming is the creation of an optimal state of mind for generating new ideas.

Brainstorming is the free association of different ideas to form new ideas and concepts.



I am holding an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of page with text and photos on it.
What am I holding?

In the 60s, 70s even 80s most people in a group, class or audience would say…

You’re holding a XEROX!

When in reality I am holding a photostatically duplicated copy that might be made on any number of brands of copy machines, laser printers or other copying devices in 2012.
People have been calling meetings where ideas are asked for or solutions for problems have been asked for BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS but they are not unless the process that Alex Osborn created and has been refined by hundreds to thousands of researchers, professors, students, consultants or practitioners since the 1950s.  The term has become an overly used cliche, a hackneyed term with very little accurate meaning or substance.

Since I attended CPSI for the first time and learned how to do Brainstorming, Alex Osborn’s creative thinking method/tool/technique from Sid Parnes in a 3 hours special session with probably 300 people in the room sitting at tables of 4 or 5 people each with an CPSI Intern (Springboard leader/presenter in training) at each table I have been collecting articles about Brainstorming the process and unfortunately those about brainstorming the overly used, trite, hackneyed, cliche term that too often is misused to represent a bunch of people sitting around a table supposedly generating ideas or working on solving a problem.

60 years the crap articles, the shallow, poorly designed and performed research studies continue to be published in popular magazines and newspapers.

July 11th, 2010 Newsweek article “BRAINSTORMING IS DEAD” by Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson is one example.

2 recent articles by Susan Cain promoting her book Quiet about her beliefs about introverts and creativity and what she has labeled the “NEW GROUPTHINK”. One in the New York Time.  The other in Scientific American.

Another article by Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker that challenges Cain’s claims about Group or Collaborative work and creative or innovative thinking yet still bashes Brainstorming.

Dr. Gerard Puccio, Director of the Buffalo State Masters Degree Program in Creative Studies responds to Jonah Lehrer’s New York article

pdf of article

ProfNet Connect > Gerard Puccio

There were others articles published in the Fall of 2011.

Here are some articles about research that actually DISPROVES the research claiming to PROVE that Alex Osborn’s Brainstorming or Group Creative Thinking Sessions do not work or produce as much as lone introverts working alone.

Scott Isaken research article

Donald Taylor article

Scot Isaken, et al  1998 report of multiple Brainstorming studies

Robert Sutton 2006 article in Newsweek

Gerard Puccio chapter from his book Creative Leadership with Mary Murdock

Jonathan Vehar rebuttal article to Merryman & Bronson “Forget Brainstomring” article in Newsweek, July 11, 2011

Scott Isaksen email about Real and Nominal Group Brainstorming research and session.

Keith Sawyer NYTimes letter to editor about Susan Cain Solitude Collaboration creativity.

Another one of those NEGATIVE NEWS type articles used to get blog readers’ attention and then provide them with ways to actually make BRAINSTORMING work and how to actually run an EFFECTIVE “meeting” for generating ideas you too often mislabel a ‘brainstorming’ session/meeting.

26 Reasons Why Brainstorming Meeting Don’t Work

urgh I continued to be annoyed, frustrated, angered by this type of article and bad reporting just to get attention.

Another negative article was published in an electronic version of FastCompany today also January 31st, 2012.

Fast Company Article

If you want to read others do a Google search for Brainstorming is Dead, Brainstorming Doesn’t Work, and similar search terms.

I just did a Google search (Tuesday, January 31st, 2012) and found 93,400,000 hits

GOOGLE search for

“Brainstorming Doesn’t Work”

Here is the first page of that search


I also just did a Google Search asking for hits about BRAINSTORMING DOES WORK

FIRST I got…5,820,000 hits just typing those words and received mostly NEGATIVE articles

SECOND I clarified and reduced the search to “BRAINSTORMING DOES WORK” with the clarifying quotation marks and got…only 1,300 hits with the first few STILL NEGATIVE articles.

January 31st email to a Creativity Consultant Colleague & Friend

– – – –

An Email to a Creativity Consultant Friend

Dear Creativity Consultant Colleague & Friend

Out of curiosity I just did a couple Google Searches

Brainstorming Does Not Work


Brainstorming Does Work


“Brainstorming Does Work” to limit the search to the specific combination of those 3 works


and still the first few were negatives or attacks on Brainstorming.

Hmmmm!?  like defnding religion, politics, peace, love….

according to a open Google search for

Creative Thinking Consultants


(I am listed as number 2 behind de Bono…oh the rush to my mostly unemployed ego)

Creative Thinking Websites


(sniff, sniff mine didn’t show up on the first screen…ha ha)

Creative Thinking Blogs


my cre8ng website shows up on the third screen

my blog createwithalan which I have just restarted posting one maybe somewhere there

searching more specifically for….

creative thinking blogs createwithalan

and I am almost every hit on the first screen with Michael Michalko on the bottom hee hee

As I said in my after dinner keynote speech at 2010 ACA (you and most of my closest colleagues missed because you had already left the conference)

“After 60 Years Has Anything Improved or Changed”

J.P. Guilford challenged the membership of the APA to study creativity in 1950…

I was challenging a few members of ACA and guests

I guess I will go back to other things on this beautiful sunny Tuesday morning in January in Athens, Georgia.

Ciao Y’all