Brainstorming is a tool for helping to generate ideas relating to a specific question or issue.

Also known as

  • Thought showering

The tool

Alex F Osborn is credited as being the originator of the brainstorming concept. According to Osborn, two principles and four rules should be borne in mind when brainstorming.


  1. Defer judgment.
  2. Reach for quantity.


Brainstorming is about creativity and about generating as many ideas as possible, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. For that reason, it is quantity that matters, not quality.

Brainstorming should not be used when the question you are asking requires a judgment to be made. Making judgments about the value of the ideas generated should be left until after the brainstorming activity has been completed.


  1. Go for quantity. The larger the number of ideas generated, the better the chance of coming up with something radical and effective.
  2. Withhold criticism. By suspending judgment, participants will be less inhibited about suggesting novel ideas. Any criticism should be reserved for a later activity.
  3. Welcome wild ideas.
  4. Combine and improve ideas. Stimulate the building of ideas by a process of association. In other words, encourage one idea to seed others.


The rules are designed to reduce social inhibitions among participants, stimulate the generation of ideas, and to increase the overall creativity of the group.


Why use it

When to use it

How to use it

To use brainstorming in a group setting:

  • Prepare the group
    • This includes choosing a suitable venue and preparing materials in advance. On the day, it includes setting out rules and expectations for how the group will behave.
  • Present the problem
    • Define the problem you are addressing, along with any criteria that must be met.
  • Guide the discussion.


Once ideas have been generated, you may find that other tools are useful (see Complemented by).


  • Encourage the suggestion of radical ideas.
  • Create synergy among participants, who may spark ideas off one another.


  • Groups inhibiting individuals from voicing radical ideas.
  • Because only one group member can present an idea at a time, other participants may forget the idea that they were going to present, or they may think it is no longer important to mention.

Similar to

This is designed to generate questions that need to be answered, rather than ideas.

Use in conjunction with

Complemented by

  • Affinity Diagrams

Process the information.

  • 6 Thinking Hats

Evaluate them further.


Additional information