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Brainstorm or not?


Is the word 'brainstorm' now considered to be an offensive word? And should one replace references of this word with 'thought shower'?
Adrian Frederick

9 Responses

  1. Offensive???
    Not sure I totally agree with this comment (no offence) but I find ‘thought shower’ more off putting. The Word Thesaurus offers for brain storming: Suggest, Come up with, Dream up.
    I say stick to brainstorm, I know where I am with that! 🙂

  2. Why not just ask people?
    I’ve heard this conundrum discussed before, and the theory is that the word “brainstorm” could be considered offensive to epileptics.

    My general experience is that most groups I’ve trained consider this type of thing to be political correctness gone mad, but if in doubt, check it out.

    Why not simply ask at the start of a session if anyone finds the word offensive… I doubt you will find many people who do, but there are always a few out there ready to be offended by anything, so at least this gives them the chance to say so rather than just proceeding regardless.

  3. does this answer the question?
    A question had been posted that related to alternative words for “brainstorming” as the asker had heard that the term was not politically correct.

    “20 January 2003 @ 15:43 PM
    Brainstorming Forever!
    The name has been criticised in some quarters and deemed to be politically incorrect. Confused, bored? I was. The contention is that some people who experience epilepsy might be offended by the expression Brainstorming because an epileptic seizure might be defined as a Brainstorm.
    I was highly sceptical of this claim and did some research of my own; I contacted the British Epilepsy Society (BEA), a group which represent the interests of sufferers, carers and researchers into this illness, and spoke to their Public Relations department. Their response was to emphatically deny that the term Brainstorming was non PC and deemed the term perfectly acceptable and indeed made the interesting observation that they themselves use this idea generating technique in their own offices and call it by its true name; Brainstorming.
    Not satisfied with this I posted a question on to 3 newsgroups and forums which focus on Epilepsy, asking whether this term was non PC. I had 47 responses, all of them stating that no offence was received by this term nor could there be by any reasonable person.

    The end result of this is that I continue to use the term Brainstorm and urge you to do the same, challenging anyone who tries to convince you otherwise, they are not using the facts to make their decisions.”

    I hope this helps

  4. Brainstorming et al
    There were a number of these knocking around in the 1990s. The use of ‘nitty gritty’ and ‘rule of thumb’ were two phrases that generated more heat than light with many urban myths about their origins and suitability (mostly propogated on the internet). Of course it is now widely recognised that both phrases are innocent of derogatory meaning and are quite acceptable.
    I suspect that the term brainstorming may have been contested more genuinely by those who were concerned about potential offence (though I have no idea who started this, so I cannot confirm that is the case). As the dictionary clearly lists two meanings I decided in the early 1990s to talk with trainers who worked with the charity MIND. I was reassured that they used the term freely. The more recent survey (see ) on views about the term was conducted by a firm that is involved in creativity but probably confirms what most people suspect.
    I think it is a shame that some people get caught up in unproductive distractions about valid terms, often stirred up by people with an agenda, when the core principle – taking care to avoid using words that genuinely demean or offend – is actually a sound one.
    If in doubt, always check it out. In this case I hope we have put your mind at rest.

  5. Brainstorm
    Having spent many years in Senior Management positions and now having set up my own Training Company, I can tell you that being PC in this manner, sometimes has an adverse affect on the recipients.

    Usually they are distracted by the subject of PC gone mad rather than strictly focusing on the specific development you are delivering.

    Rather than the conversation during the breaks being all about the course, what they have learn’t and how dynamic it is, you will find them talking about how ridiculous the world is becoming.

    Everyone understands ‘brainstorming’. It also has the effect of making people feel that they don’t have to be isolated in their role as collective intelligence can benefit both them as individuals and make their direct reports, etc feel more involved and valued. Hence, a happier and more productive team.

    If you feel uncomfortable, then introduce the word brainstorming and ask the group if they would prefer to label it as something else but do make it clear that whatever the label it still is brainstorming.

    Good luck

  6. Other ways to offend
    I can think of a thousand ways to offend someone if I really want to….’brainstorm’ isn’t one of them!


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