Is there an alternative word / phrase for 'brainstorm'? |

Is there an alternative word / phrase for 'brainstorm'?

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 I have used a variety of brainstorming techniques for all sorts of training purposes. Recently I was told that the word had particular connotations in the health training area, due to an association with certain medical conditions.

I was asked to use 'wordstorm', (which avoids the apparently problematic connection with the brain) but it doesn't seem quite right to me.

Has anyone come across an alternative?

jane lunsford



Susie Finch's picture

The use of the word Brainstorm is one of those Evergreen questions which comes up on our Any Answers forum! For more information, please see our Ask the Expert: Brainstorming - Offensive or not?

Kind regards

Susie Finch
Editor, Features

I attended a workshop recently where we had "thought showers". The explanation given for the alternative phrase was that brainstorming can be linked to a condition related to epilepy. I shall continue to use brainstorming

Sounds like we all need to brainstorm alternatives! Perhaps there should be a trainingzone competition to find a new phrase for this.

Here are some suggestions:

Talk it and Chalk it

I know, scraping the barrel!
Happy New Year everyone


As the ex training manager of a large care provider, this is a problem I came across when I first joined the company!! I ended up using the terms 'think tank', 'free thinking' or 'creative thinking' session as opposed to 'brainstorming' using the term that felt most appropriate for the type of training session being delivered. None have quite the same 'feel' as 'brainstorming' I admit, but they seemed to work in that environment.

A colleague of mine was recently doing a Presentation Skills course and was told about the negative implications of the word "brainstorm".

The delegate also told him that the PC terminology was, apparently, "mindshowering".

Practically speaking, whatever we call it, the vast majority of delegates are going to call it "brainstorming" anyway.

I think the key here is that we are sensitive to our audiences and tell delegates to be careful with the language they themselves use.


This one will probably set off a lot of comments on "words" that are appropriate!.

The Chambers Dictionary gives the following meanings to two quite different words :-

brainstorming noun, originally US the practice of trying to solve problems or develop new ideas and strategies, etc by intensive group discussion in which suggestions and thoughts are put forward spontaneously.

brainstorm noun 1 colloq a sudden loss of the ability to think clearly and act properly or sensibly; a mental aberration. 2 N Amer colloq a brainwave 1.
ETYMOLOGY: 19c, meaning 'a sudden violent disturbance of the mind'.

Clearly they mean different things and should be used in appropriate circumstances.

So what is the problem?

Hope this helps



Brainstorm is another word for a seizure and may be experienced by people who have Epilepsy.

I have not yet come across any PC backlash to using the word during a training session, but thanks for making me aware that some delegates might be sensitive to its use.

As most of the ides end up on a whiteboard or similar, we tend to use the phrase "Boardblast"

It's preposterous, isn't it, and, like many PC-isms, alternatives like "thoughtshower" are probably most ridiculous to sufferers. It does seem to be gaining ground, though.

On the other hand thoughtshower does give rise to other possibilities like "thoughtspitting" for a bad session or "thoughtdeluge/thoughtbucket" for a good one. Brainrainbow if the results are mixed? Thoughtp... ?

Here are some alternatives, not much good though, as far as I can see:

How about Brainsurfing? Can't get much more "PC" than that (unless you use a "Mac") ...

Don't forget your wellies!

PS The origin appears to be Alex Osborn's 1953 book Applied Imagination.

Jenny James's picture

I agree with the comments about brainstorming. I, too, have been asked not to use brainstorm and the suggestion was first thought process.

Any use?



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