Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



The purpose of this research is to further our understanding of the way groups work together to generate ideas while using a procedure called brainstorming. Brainstorming requires groups to follow four procedural rules while generating their ideas (Osborn 1957). However, two of theses rules seem to call for contradictory processes. One of these rules states that “free-wheeling is welcomed; the wilder the idea the better,” while another rule says to “combine and build on the ideas already generated.” The contradiction is apparent when a person notices that one rule requests a group to generate ideas that are different from previously generated ideas and the other rule requests a group to generate ideas that are similar to previously generated ideas.The implication of this contradiction was examined by presenting the rules to groups in two different ways. In the first condition, groups received all four rules at once, which is the standard way they are usually presented. In the second condition groups received all four rules again but they received the “free-wheeling” instruction first and, after generating ideas for a set amount of time, the groups then received the final “build-on” instruction. It was found that when groups were given the two contradictory rules separately and sequentially, they generated significantly more feasible ideas, though not more original. These results suggest that this presentation of the rules could be used with real-world groups to help improve their ability to generate more viable and useful ideas.


First place winner of the 2014 University Libraries Undergraduate Research Paper Award.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.