Considering the rules of brainstorming in untrained idea generating groups




Brainstorming, Idea Generation, Group Dynamics, Groupwork, Group Work


Brainstorming (Osborn, 1957), as an idea generating technique, is widely used in businesses and organizations despite evidence that it fails to produce more ideas than non-interacting groups (e.g., Mullen, Johnson, & Salas, 1991). Past tests of the technique employ comparisons of groups instructed to follow the rules of brainstorming (i.e., focus on quantity, free-wheeling, non-evaluation, and piggy-backing) to groups without such instructions. In the current study, the connection between the activities proposed in the rules of brainstorming and idea generation are examined.  The perceived occurrence of these activities are examined in untrained idea generating groups to assess how they influence idea generation. 188 participants (61% men, 39% women), performed an idea generation task (i.e., the typewriter task) and assessed perceptions of the occurrence of the activities highlighted by the brainstorming rules in the group discussion. Overall, perceptions of brainstorming rules influence the number of ideas generated with piggy-backing emerging as a significant predictor variable.

Author Biography

David Dryden Henningsen, Professor, Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University

David Henningsen is a scholar studying group dynamics. He has published research on group decision making, creativity in groups, and group relations. He has published in a variety of regional, national, and international journals.


Blomstrom, S., Boster, F. J., Levine, K. J., Butler, E.M.J. & Levine, S. L. (2008) The effects of training on brainstorming. North Dakota Journal of Communication, Speech, & Theatre, 21, 41-50

Comadena, M. E. (1984) Brainstorming groups: Ambiguity tolerance, communication apprehension, task attraction, and individual productivity. Small Group Behavior, 15, 251-264

Deuja, A., Kohn, N. W., Paulus, P. B., & Korde, R. M. (2014) Taking a broad perspective before brainstorming. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 18, 222-236

Diehl, M., & Stroebe, W. (1987) Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: Toward the solution of a riddle. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 497-509

Goldenberg, O., Larson, jr., J. R., & Wiley, J. (2013) Goal instructions, response format, and idea generation in groups. Small Group Research, 44, 227-256

Henningsen, D. D. & Henningsen, M. L. M. (2013) Generating ideas about the uses of brainstorming: Reconsidering the losses and gains of brainstorming groups relative to nominal groups. Southern Communication Journal, 78, 42-55

Henningsen, D. D., & Henningsen, M. L. M. (2018). Does brainstorming lead to symbolic convergence? Exploring the development of cohesiveness in idea generating groups. Communication Reports, 31, 103-114

Jablin, F. M. (1981) Cultivating imagination: Factors that enhance and inhibit creativity in brainstorming groups. Human Communication Research, 7, 245-258

Jablin, F. M., Seibold, D. R., & Sorenson, R. L. (1977) Potential inhibitory effects of group participation on brainstorming performance. Central States Speech Journal, 28, 113-121

Jablin, F. M., & Sussman, L. (1978) An exploration of communication and productivity in real brainstorming groups. Human Communication Research, 4, 329-337

Kramer, M. W., Kuo, C. L., & Dailey, J. C. (1997) The impact of brainstorming techniques on subsequent group processes: Beyond generating ideas. Small Group Research, 28, 218-242

Levine, K. J., Heuett, K. B., & Reno, K. M. (2015) Re-operationalizing established groups in brainstorming: Validating Osborn’s claims. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 51, 3, 252-262

McCroskey, J. C. (1982) Oral communication apprehension: A reconceptualization. Communication Yearbook, 6, 136-170

Mongeau, P. M., & Morr, M. C. (1999) Reconsidering brainstorming. Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal, 1, 14-21

Mullen, B., Johnson, C., & Salas, E., (1991) Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: A meta-analytic integration. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 12, 3-23

Nemeth, C. J. Personnaz, B., Personnaz, M., & Goncalo, J. A. (2004) The liberating role of conflict in group creativity: A study in two countries. European Journal of Social Psychology, 34, 365-374

Nijstad, B. A., van Vianen, A. E. M., Stroebe, W., & Lodewijkx, H. F. M. (2004) Persistence in brainstorming: Exploring stop rules in same sex groups. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 7, 195-206

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

Paulus, P. B., Kohn, N. W., Arditti, L. E. (2011) Effects of quantity and quality instructions on brainstorming. Journal of Creative Behavior, 45, 38-46

Sutton, R. I. & Hargadon, A. (1996) Brainstorming groups in context: Effectiveness in a product design firm. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41, 685-718

Taylor, D. W., Berry, P. C., & Block, C. H. (1958) Does group participation when using brainstorming facilitate or inhibit creative thinking? Administrative Science Quarterly, 3, 23-47




How to Cite

Henningsen, D. D., & Henningsen, M. L. (2022). Considering the rules of brainstorming in untrained idea generating groups. Groupwork, 30(2).