Dictionary of brainstorming terms – part of a free training course

This page contains definitions and explanations of a few key words and phrases used by this web site and other people in the field of brainstorming and creativity.


Affinity Diagram: This tool is used after a brainstorming session to organize and categorize ideas. Participants write their ideas on cards or sticky notes, which are then grouped based on their natural relationships or themes. This helps in identifying patterns and forming connections between seemingly disparate ideas.

Analogical Thinking: A creative process where solutions are found by drawing parallels between different domains, disciplines, or problems. For example, how might a principle in nature (like the way bees pollinate flowers) inspire a new marketing strategy?


brainstorming definitions

Brainstorming: A group creativity technique aiming to generate a large number of ideas for solving a specific problem. It emphasizes an open and non-judgmental atmosphere where participants are encouraged to share even the most unconventional ideas.

Brainwriting: An alternative to traditional verbal brainstorming, this method involves participants writing down their ideas on paper or digitally before sharing them with the group. This can be particularly effective in ensuring quieter members of the group have their ideas heard.


Convergent Thinking: A mental process of evaluating and narrowing down ideas generated during divergent thinking. It involves critical thinking, prioritization, and decision-making to select the most viable ideas or solutions.

Creativity: The mental capability to produce original, innovative, and valuable ideas or solutions. Creativity involves thinking outside traditional frameworks and combining existing knowledge and ideas in new ways.


Divergent Thinking: A thought process or method used to generate many creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. This involves thinking in a non-linear, spontaneous, and free-flowing manner.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats: Developed by Edward de Bono, this is a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six colored hats. Each hat represents a different direction of thinking (e.g., facts, emotions, creativity), aiding in looking at a problem from multiple perspectives.


Elevator Pitch: A brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in an idea, product, or project. It’s called an elevator pitch as it should be concise enough to present during a short elevator ride.

Empathy Map: A tool used primarily in design thinking to gain a deeper insight into customers or users. It helps teams empathize with users by capturing what they are seeing, thinking, feeling, and doing.


fishbone brainstorming evaluation technique

Facilitation: The act of helping a group achieve its goals by managing discussions, ensuring equal participation, and guiding the problem-solving process without dictating the outcome.

Fishbone Diagram: Also known as Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram, it helps teams visually depict the potential causes of a specific problem or effect, facilitating the identification of root causes.


Groupthink: A psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people when the desire for harmony or conformity results in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making. It often leads to poor choices as alternatives are not evaluated thoroughly.


Heuristic: A cognitive shortcut or rule of thumb that simplifies decision-making. Heuristics are helpful in brainstorming for quickly generating or narrowing down ideas but can sometimes lead to biases.


Idea Affinity Groups: In brainstorming, this refers to the clustering of similar ideas. This method helps in organizing thoughts and recognizing broader themes or concepts that may not be apparent initially.

Ideation: The creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas. It encompasses all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization.


Judgment-Free Brainstorming: A fundamental principle in brainstorming where participants are encouraged to freely express creative ideas without fear of criticism. This fosters an open and innovative environment.

KJ creative thinking training


KJ-Method (Kawakita Jiro Method): A Japanese approach to categorizing and prioritizing ideas. Participants write ideas on cards, which are then grouped and organized to identify patterns and themes.


Lateral Thinking: A method of thinking that seeks solutions through indirect and creative approaches. It involves looking at problems from different angles rather than approaching them head-on.


Mind Mapping: A visual tool for brainstorming, note-taking, and complex problem solving. Ideas are visually structured around a central concept, often leading to new and innovative connections.


Nominal Group Technique: A structured method for group brainstorming that encourages contributions from all group members. Ideas are generated individually and then shared collectively for further discussion and ranking.


Osborn’s Checklist: A creative thinking tool that offers a set of questions to encourage new ideas. It prompts thinking about a problem or situation from different angles, such as ‘What can be substituted?’ or ‘What can be rearranged?’


Prototyping: The creation of an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. It is a key part of the design thinking process, allowing for the testing and refinement of ideas.


Quality Circles: Small groups of employees who meet regularly to identify, analyze, and solve work-related problems. Typically, they focus on improving product quality and the workplace environment.

Reverse brainstorming training


Reverse Brainstorming: A technique where problems are solved by considering how they could be caused or worsened. This often leads to innovative ways of solving the original problem.


SCAMPER: An acronym that stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. This technique encourages thinkers to ask questions about existing products, services, or problems to create new ideas.


Think-Pair-Share: A collaborative teaching method where students think about a question or problem individually, then pair up to discuss their thoughts before sharing with a larger group. It encourages participation and idea sharing.


Unconference: A loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants. It is participant-driven and often focuses on a particular theme or topic.


Visual Thinking: The practice of using pictures to enhance your ability to solve problems, think about complex issues, and communicate effectively. It’s particularly useful in brainstorming to clarify thoughts and ideas.


Whiteboarding: Using a whiteboard to brainstorm, plan, and problem solve in a visual and collaborative way. It allows for easy alteration and evolution of ideas.


X-Y Axis Plotting: A method for visually plotting ideas or data points on a two-dimensional graph. This can help identify relationships and patterns between variables.


Zeigarnik Effect: A psychological phenomenon that describes a person’s better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. This can be leveraged in brainstorming to keep participants engaged with unresolved ideas.

Other useful websites: Excel spreadsheet consultant and support, Microsoft Word consultant and help, PowerPoint help and support, ChatGPT training course

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