That’s right, Alex Osborn started popularizing brainstorming in the late 1930’s. It’s a classic tool I still use, but I have to wonder if there’s something better.
Brainstorming is simple, and I would bet this simplicity is the key to its popularity. Yet even the basic rules that Osborn set out aren’t very common. Brainstorming is too often reduced to sitting around a conference table discussing a topic rather than storming an objective.
I tried a little experiment with my Business & Design students tonight, introducing them to three different idea generation tools: brainstorming, “yes, and…,” and question the brief. Brainstorming and Yes, and… were slow and stiff. Part of this is probably due to my skill as a facilitator, but I also think these tools require some experience to use proficiently. I liken it to building muscles; it takes some time doing it to see results.
Question the brief, on the other hand, more easily generated plenty of usable ideas, and there were even some explicit comments preferring this method, so that we returned to it. My theory is that it’s simple enough to remember but has just enough structure to produce specific kinds of ideas. That’s a balance I’m going to seek with my other concept design tools.
See also my concept design page at Smart Experience.