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What is the situation with using the term 'Brainstorm'? I've heard conflicting opinions on whether it is a politically correct term to use whilst in the classroom. Can anyone help?
Paul Brookes

26 Responses

  1. People Management Page 46 & 47
    Read the latest edition of People Management (29th January 2004) as there is a useful article on ‘Brainstorming’ and creativity.

    Regarding your question, I see no reason for any PC condemnation of this term. Sounds better than the latest version (in my opinion): ‘Brain-dump’!

  2. Use of the term ‘brainstorming’.
    Last year I was asked in a training session not to say ‘brainstorming’ as it was not considered pc any more. My critic said it was offensive to people with epilepsy. The complainant suggested saying ‘mind showering’ instead.
    A month later I was running a training skills session where I explained the debate on brainstorming. A trainee promptly stated that she had epilepsy and had no problem with the use of the word. In fact, she found the rationale patronising and condescending towards people with epilepsy. I have said ‘brainstorming’ ever since.
    Norma Jones

  3. Brainstorming Alternative
    I have had this discussion recently with a tutor at University who confirms that using the term Brainstorming is not quite the done thing. I tend to use the term Boardstorm, this fits if using a white board or flip chart. Hope this helps.

  4. ‘Brainstorming’ should be okay, but…
    Learners in my organisation launched into a minor debate about the PC-ness of the word ‘brainstorming’ last year, amid a shower of suggestions that we ought to call it ‘braindumping’, ‘mind-showering’ and a few other terms which, quite frankly, were a bit silly.

    Therefore, I spoke to someone at the National Society for Epilepsy, who said that they didn’t have a problem with calling it ‘brainstorming’, and in fact they still used the term in meetings.

    However, it is encumbent upon us all as facilitators of groups of people trying to learn, to be aware of the sensitivities of the group and to be ready to adapt our language if someone in the group is genuinely offended by this, or any other word we use come to think of it.

    How you do this is up to you…

  5. Brainstorming is OK
    I’ve come across the same issue in my work (educational publishing). I was informed that ‘brainstorm’ was offensive and ‘thought shower’ (!) should be used instead or else ‘gather/collect ideas’. So I did some research. According to an article last year in the Times Educational Supplement, the British epilepsy association has no problem with ‘brainstorm’ (but finds ‘seizure’ more acceptable usage than ‘fit’). Other examples: In the USA there is actually a mascot called Brainstorm the Bear which is used in work with children. In India a recent international medical conference was entitled ‘Brainstorm 2002’.
    So there seems to be no real foundation to this objection, and I continue to use ‘brainstorm’. However, it is taking hold in some circles. It would be a great pity if this kind of language policing were to take place when it’s clearly unnecessary.

  6. This is PCness gone mad
    Are there any words or phrases we can use in the English dictionary that don’t cause offence??

    If the Epilepsy society use the word brainstorming in meetings, then that’s good enough for me – it’s political correctness gone mad.

    Unless the phrase is genuinely offensive to a majority of people, we should all lighten up and get on with it. If someone could explain why brainstorm could be offensive, I would have a better understanding and be better able to act.

  7. Brainstorm
    Two members of my immediate family have epilepsy and take no offence at all at the term. Whilst it is dangerous to assume that those who have epilepsy will automatically make an (offensive) connection between what is a commonly used term for generating ideas and options, and the physiological changes that take place in the brain during a seizure, it is also risky to assume, as with all other equality and diversity issues, that people WON’T object if you personally ‘take a stand’ to mounting political correctness in our language! Your best bet may to play safe and go for ‘ideas generation’ or ‘mind-mapping’ (a technique which in itself can be a very valuable tool).

  8. Brain storming
    I would not want to offend anyone knowingly. Is there a Government body that sits in its ivory tower (paid a vast amount of cash) and spends all day looking for things to make non pc!

    The term mind dumping, frankly initiates visions of toilet activity!

    Can anyone enlighten me as to where the relationship between epilepsy and brainstorming came into play, or are you all too busy analysing other words to make offensive!

  9. Trainer with epilepsy
    I come at this as a trainer diagnosed with epilepsy some years ago. I am astounded that this should cause offence to anyone! I had no idea this wasn’t ‘PC’ terminology and have and will continue to use brainstorm. I agree with Ginny that there must be someone with too much time on their hands making this stuff up.

  10. PC or not PC?
    If anyone can quote the source of this concern I would love to know. Whether myth or otherwise it has existed, particularly in the uniformed services, for several years. However, those in the mental health area, and those who might directly be offended, seem largely unbothered by it.
    I suspect that like its cousins ‘nitty gritty’ and ‘rule of thumb’ – both eminently PC – it has emerged as misguided advice from some ill-informed source.
    Long live Brainstorming!

  11. Thought Festival
    When I left the Navy and joined Social Services Training, I was regularly pulled up for using Brainstorming – substitutes used are boardstorming or thought festival. Still using the term brainstorming after 4 years and nobody has complained.

  12. Change the name of a theory?
    I agree with many of the comments made already, I had never had any issue with this until a co-trainer one day said ‘I’d like to do a brainstorming session now, oh sorry we can’t use that term anymore’ in a training session on diversity! I too have looked into this and find the exclusion of the term and subsequent explaination far more offensive than the term itself. My arguement is that brainstorming is the name of a recognised theory developed by Alex F Osbourne in 1939,According to Osborn, ” Brainstorm means using the brain to storm a creative problem and to do so “in commando fashion, each stormer audaciously attacking the same objective.” I feel this is a legitimate defence for the term, we would not alter the title of say Einstein’s Relativity theory so why change Osbourne’s?

  13. More to avoid?!
    Role Play – to avoid upsetting unemployed (sorry, resting!) actors

    Team work – those who never got picked for the fifth form hockey/football team

    Black/white board – obvious?!

    Problem solving – anyone with a problem…

    …oh this is too much!!!!

  14. What!?!
    What!?! I’ve just had a rush of blood to the head. Could this be a brainstorm?

  15. Concern for others but…
    If you have concern for others it makes sense not to use terminology that would directly offend – I wear glasses and would not like it if someone addressed me as ‘Hoi specky’ 🙂

    However political correctness is (generally) a vile and pointless process created by people who have no concern for others and just want to set rules and have control – I try to challenge PC speech or thought whenever I come across it – and suggest that others do the same.

  16. More storming …
    I’ve heard that this particular storm in a teacup (I hope that use of the word doesn’t offend anyone out there!) started at a teacher training college, where trainees were instructed by tutors not to use the word. When the trainees went out into classrooms, they took the notion with them and so it spread.

    I must say, I’ve been greatly heartened by the response here. At times I’ve been made to feel like the world’s last great bigot when I’ve raised objections to this in my work. I’m all for sensitive and considerate use of language but this just plain wrong. It’s been great to know I’m not alone!

  17. blame storming!
    I came across this recently and rather like the picture it paints- discussing why a project failed or missed deadlines, and who to blame!

  18. PC Gone Too Far..!!
    I think that this is PC gone too far. No self respecting training professional would knowingly offend anyone. This phrase has been in use for many years and it does exactly what it says on the tin. How many other phrases will we have to change / stop using to remain “PC”..?!!! I use this phrase and will continue to do so. Plus there are much more important things to worry about.

  19. Stop the world I want to get off !
    I am a training manager who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the grand age of 18 – let’s just say that was quite some time ago. I regularly use the term “brainstorming” myself and was astonished to be pulled up by a police trainer friend of mine. He had been told that the term is offensive to epileptics ( not this one) and therefore he had to use the term “cloudburst” instead.

    What a load of tosh !!!

  20. How does ‘PC’ arise?
    Can I try a bit of interpretation of what is happening here and then generalise to pose a new question?

    My interpretation goes as follows. Some individuals (perhaps even organisations) have suggested that the term may be offensive to certain other individuals. The evidence here is that those ‘other individuals’ are ac tually NOT offended by the term Brainstroming.
    So, assumptions have been made about possible offence; these assumptions appear to be incorrect.

    Now let me generalise. Is there a risk that much PC ‘stuff’ is formed on the same basis – untested assumptions?

    Any thoughts?

  21. Contradiction
    I dont mind the term brainstorming…by ignoring this you are not respecting my diversity.

    Where does this end?

  22. who has defined the word brainstorming?
    everyone at work has a brain -good, bad or indifferent. Who say’s that the word brainstorming relates only to good brains?
    I don’t often have time to waste on trivia such as this….but I do today!

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