Osborn (1957) highlights that one should keep in mind the following suggestions during brainstorming:

  • Suspend judgment
  • Build on ideas or spin off other members ideas (group brainstorming)
  • Quantity is better than quality

Components of Brainstorming

The two main components of brainstorming are fluency and flexibility. Fluency (similar to rifting for Jazz players) deals with generating as many ideas as possible under a timed session, while flexibility encourages users to be open in generating those ideas and building off previously generated ideas.

Another prerequisite of brainstorming is the presence of a problem statement. This will help users direct their mental resources in solving the problem at hand. One idea can lead to a myriad of ideas with the solution hidden in one of the ideas. Suspending judgment is important because a useless idea lead to a better idea or solution.

Individual brainstorming versus group brainstorming

Paulus et al. (2006) indicates that individual brainstorming is more than group brainstorming due to factors such as “free-riding, social-loafing, blocking, evaluation apprehension, and downward social comparison”(p.1). As per our class discussions, group thinking for the first time might not be successful due to the following reasons:

  • Users are not fully aware of group brainstorming processes
  • Low levels of trust between individuals
  • Low comfort levels

Group thinking between strangers needs time and practice to be effective. As individuals understand the group and social dynamics, their comfort levels and trusts would increase leading to more ideas during brainstorming process.

In addition, the effectiveness of group brainstorming can be greatly increased by a facilitator (Paulus et al., 2006, p.1). The facilitator does not take part in brainstorming but guides the brainstorming process. A facilitator is someone from outside the group that aids in keeping the teams focused on the problem being solved, avoiding discussions that does not concern the problem statement and helping the members feel comfortable in teams. Some guidelines as outlined by Paulus et al. (2006) are

  • Keep teams focused on problem statement
  • Avoid narrations such as stories
  • Avoid details such as idea explanations
  • Keep up conversation
  • Ask people who have not contributed to voice their thoughts and concerns
  • Avoid judging ideas


Sequential Versus Simultaneous Problem Solving

Coskun et al. (2000) carried out an experiment to measure the amount of ideas generated by sequential and simultaneous problem solving. Task decomposition is the process of dividing a problem into smaller sub-problems or tasks (Coskun et al., 2000, p.2). In sequential problem solving, groups brainstormed on sub tasks for a certain period of time. This process continued until all subtasks were addressed. In Simultaneous problem solving, groups brainstormed on the main problem. It was observed that sequential problem solving generated more ideas than simultaneous problem solving. By breaking a problem into smaller manageable parts, users are able to generate more related ideas (Coskun et al., 2000).



Osborn, A. F. ( 1957). Applied imagination: Principles and procedures of creative problem-solving. New York: Scribner’s.

Paulus, P. B., Nakui, T., Putman, V. L., & Brown, V. R. (2006). Effects of task instructions and brief breaks on brainstorming. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, And Practice, 10(3), 206-219. doi:10.1037/1089-2699.10.3.206

Coskun, H., Paulus, P. B., Brown, V., & Sherwood, J. J. (2000). Cognitive stimulation and problem presentation in idea-generating groups. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, And Practice, 4(4), 307-329. doi:10.1037/1089-2699.4.4.307