Structured brainstorming

“Structured brainstorming” is a simplified version of Creative Problem Solving centered on idea generation. Alex Osborn and his team started developing and practicing brainstorming at the end of the 1930s as a means of bringing more imagination to their advertising campaigns. He subsequently evolved the techniques into what became the Osborn and Parnes CPS method in 1954.

Structured brainstorming starts by clearly stating a question in a positive and dynamic manner, such as “How?”, “How to…?”, or even “How might we…?”, which is shared with the group. Once it is understood, the facilitator encourages the group to produce ideas from every direction – without initially sorting them. Judgment on the ideas is deferred (divergent thinking). Next, the ideas are revisited, considered in the context against criteria, strengthened, and improved until a new and satisfactory solution has been found (convergent thinking).

This method is a precious day-to-day aid, helping to save time, identify the best solutions, and work in a more engaged and effective way. To be most effective, the method requires a bit of training (separating divergence and convergence doesn’t always come naturally), a pleasant environment (relaxed and friendly), and respect for how it should be applied (clarity of each person’s roles and responsibilities, etc.).