The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.

Linus Pauling


"Brainstorming" is sometimes used as a synonym for creative thinking, although it represents only one specific aspect. Introduced by Alex Osborn in Applied Imagination, brainstorming describes a process of generating ideas in a group situation. The process is based on the assumption that quantity yields quality, and on the principle of suspended judgment--a principle that scientific research has proved to be highly productive. This principle or guideline, along with others are listed below.


1. Form groups of three to seven people.

2. Clearly state the problem or task at hand.

3. Assign someone to write down all ideas as they are shared.

4. Designate someone to help enforce the following guidelines:

a. Suspend judgment.

b. Record every idea.

c. Encourage odd or unusual ideas.

d. Encourage people to build on the ideas of others.


In Serious Creativity, de Bono describes brainstorming as a traditional approach to deliberate creative thinking with the consequence that people believe creative thinking can only be done in groups. The whole idea of brainstorming is that other people's remarks would act to stimulate your own ideas in a sort of chain reaction of ideas.

In actual fact, groups are not necessary for deliberate creative thinking, and Serious Creativity describes techniques for individuals to use to produce ideas. Group experiences are limited in that (a) a person needs to listen to others, and (b) a person may spend time repeating her own ideas so they get sufficient attention. Brainstorming as a group can certainly produce ideas, but individual thinking using techniques such as those described by de Bono can also be employed. de Bono believes that individuals are much better at generating ideas and fresh directions. Once an idea has been initiated, then a group may be better able to develop the idea and take it in more directions than can the originator.


De Bono, E. (1992). Serious Creativity. Harper Business.

Osborn, A. (1953). Applied Imagination. Scribner's.

© Steven A. Henkel, 12/02

Creativity aspects
Everyday creativity
Creative movement

Brainstorming guidelines and activities