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Brainstorming New Invention Ideas: The Innovation Process

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Did you know that “brainstorming” is an invention? The process of brainstorming invention ideas is a little different than Archimedes’ “eureka” (literally, I have found it), moment when the ancient Greek scholar suddenly discovered the principle of density by sitting in his bath, seeing the water rise, and then running around the town naked in his excitement.

The Inventing Invention

Originally presented in the 1953 book Applied Imagination: Principles and Practices of Creative Thinking, author Alex Osborn identified brainstorming as a theory of steps involved in the creative process of spontaneous thinking, including some or all of these phases:

  • Orientation (pointing to the problem), Preparation (gathering pertinent data)
  • Analysis (breaking down relevant material)
  • Hypothesis (collecting alternatives by way of ideas)
  • Incubation (letting up to invite the illumination)
  • Synthesis (putting the pieces together)
  • Verification (judging the resultant ideas)

Sounds pretty technical, but the beauty of brainstorming is that it is anything but technical. There are four basic rules to keep in mind when brainstorming for great new invention ideas, all of them fairly low-tech:

  • Criticism is ruled out.
  • Think outside of the box—the farther outside, the better.
  • Quantity is the goal.
  • Combination and improvement of ideas are sought.

Fun with Problem Solving

Brainstorming is fun.Gather a group of people, present the problem, share the known information, and start throwing ideas and solutions against the wall to see what sticks. The goal is to share as many ideas as possible, no matter how far out they may initially sound, without fear of judgment. Those ideas may then be combined, stretched, and played with…

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