Brainstorming is a group creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem. In 1953 the method was popularized by Alex Faickney Osborn in a book called Applied Imagination. Osborn proposed that groups could double their creative output with brainstorming.
Although brainstorming has become a popular group technique, when applied in a traditional group setting, researchers have not found evidence of its effectiveness for enhancing either quantity or quality of ideas generated. Because of such problems as distraction, social loafing, evaluation apprehension, and production blocking, conventional brainstorming groups are little more effective than other types of groups, and they are actually less effective than individuals working independently. In the Encyclopedia of Creativity, Tudor Rickards, in his entry on brainstorming, summarizes its controversies and indicates the dangers of conflating productivity in group work with quantity of ideas.
Although traditional brainstorming does not increase the productivity of groups (as measured by the number of ideas generated), it may still provide benefits, such as boosting morale, enhancing work enjoyment, and improving team work. Thus, numerous attempts have been made to improve brainstorming or use more effective variations of the basic technique.
Professor Olivier Toubia of Columbia University has conducted extensive research in the field of idea generation and has concluded that incentives are extremely valuable within the brainstorming context.
From these attempts to improve brainstorming, electronic brainstorming stands out. Mainly through anonymization and parallelization of input, electronic brainstorming enforces the ground rules of effective brainstorming and thereby eliminates most of the deleterious or inhibitive effects of group work. The positive effects of electronic brainstorming become more pronounced with groupsize.