'Brainstorming' is politically correct

07 Sep 2005
The word ‘Brainstorming’ is politically correct and it is an urban myth that the word is insensitive, particularly to those with mental health problems, according to a new survey among leading mental health charities and campaign bodies.
The survey revealed none of these organisations considered ‘brainstorming’ as politically incorrect or had any formal policies relating to this question. The survey was conducted by creativity consultancy creativity@work and was instigated by frequent concerns raised by human resources specialists and training course delegates that the term ‘brainstorming’ is likely to cause offence, particularly to schizophrenics and epileptics - despite the term not having any inherent negative meaning or derogatory references. The authors of the survey now claim it is safe and politically correct to use the word ‘brainstorming’ when describing a meeting for generating ideas. However if the word ‘Brainstorming’ is used in the context to describe a seizure or the electrical activity during a seizure the word ‘Brainstorming’ should not be used. “We frequently come across people who tell us that, ‘You can’t use the word ‘Brainstorming’, it’s politically incorrect’.” said Andy Green of creativity consultancy creativity@work. “As a result many have felt uneasy about using the term. We have witnessed situations where debate over the correctness of the word has actually got in the way of starting, or encouraging idea generating sessions.” “On a wider front this is an important issue. If we misuse the word and concept of ‘political correctness’ it dilutes and undermines its effectiveness in areas where there is a need for greater sensitivity and awareness, particularly in relation to mental health issues.” He added: “We feel we have given the word ‘Brainstorming’ a clean bill of health and will hopefully put pay to this modern urban myth.” The word ‘brainstorming’ was originally coined by Alex Osborn in his seminal work ‘Applied Imagination’. The Oxford English dictionary defines a brainstorming session as ‘a concerted intellectual treatment of a problem by discussing spontaneous ideas about it.’ For further details of the survey please visit www.creativityatwork.co.uk Mental health charities and campaign groups contacted in the survey included: MENCAP, MIND, SANE, Manic Depression Fellowship, Rethink, National Schizophrenia Fellowship for Scotland, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Depression Alliance, Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Scotland, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Mental Aftercare Association, and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. Further details please contact Andy Green of creativity@work on 0845 450 3210 or e mail andy@greenpr.co.uk Background on Brainstorming The father of Brainstorming is Alex Osborn. In his seminal work ‘Applied Imagination’ (1940) he coined the phrase ‘brainstorming’ and defined a tool which is probably the most widely used creativity technique in the world. Osborn sought to apply scientific practices to the task of using imagination and applying to tackle modern-day problems. His system was adopted by Madison Avenue in the 1950’s and its core principles have been applied around the world. The word ‘ brainstorming’, originally applied solely to the technique described by Osborn, has since become a shorthand for the use of creative techniques, or been used to describe a creativity session: ‘Let’s do a brainstorm’ is an often heard call for an idea generating session, regardless of whether Osborn specific technique is employed. In a typical Brainstorm Osborn established the basic rules of: • Staff placed in informal setting • Everyone is encouraged to run wild intellectually • No one should criticise anyone else’s idea • The more unusual or crazy the idea the better • The more suggestions the better • Ideas can be combined and re-combined • All members views are sought • All members are at equal status
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