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To ‘brainstorm’ or to mind map?

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There seems to be a myth developing that when we arrange a meeting to throw ideas around to solve a problem, say, or to come up with a new product, people with the condition of epilepsy will be offended if we call it a “brainstorming” session.

Well, Epilepsy Action, ( doesn’t agree, and you’d expect them to know.  (See Brainstorming not offensive to people with epilepsy).  But the word “should not be used to describe a seizure….” they say – which may be how the myth was born.

The too-politically-correct brigade suggest using the term “mind mapping” instead.  Oh dear, wrong again.  “Brainstorming” and “mind mapping” are not interchangeable words.

  • Mind mapping is a thinking, planning and noting tool that may be used in many contexts, not just in brainstorming sessions;
  • Brainstorming sessions may be conducted with simple flip-chart lists, Post-it tabs, Hexagon maps or 3″x5″ cards as well as mind maps.

So go ahead, you can be confident you won’t be offending anyone when you invite them to a “brainstorming session”.

But wait.  If you are in business, you might want to consider whether group brainstorming is really going to be as effective as you might expect.  A study Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea from Wharton School of Management finds that “the frequently recommended brainstorming technique of building on each other’s ideas is counter-productive: teams exhibiting such build-up neither create more ideas nor are the ideas that build on previous ideas better.”


Footnote:  Do avoid referring to epilepsy as an illness, though.  It is a condition, not an illness.

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