Words-worth: Brainstorming

Do you still brainstorm? Or are you into cloudbursting, or thought showers?

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The word 'brainstorming', meaning a free-form pooling of ideas, has fallen into disrepute because it's said to offend people suffering from, for instance, epilepsy; but charities dealing with brain disorders have raised no objections. It is true that 'brain storm' once had those connotations. In a medical dictionary of 1894, it is defined as 'a succession of sudden and severe phenomena, due to some cerebral disturbance' and it was used that way in Britain into the 1920s. In the US, the phrase gained currency after a murder case of 1906 when a millionaire was acquitted on appeal after his lawyers blamed his actions on a 'brain storm'. But then the Americans began using the phrase to mean a good idea, equivalent to our 'brainwave'. When, in 1939, adman Alex Osborn invented the ritual he called a 'brain storm session', he was using the expression in that sense. So Americans have no problems with 'brainstorming'. We, though, have been scratching around for alternatives. A pity they are all so wet.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Why you overvalue your own ideas

And why you shouldn't.

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it.