Alex F. Osborn helped found Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn in 1919 and served as its executive vice president and general manager from 1938 to 1945 when he became vice chairman of the board. But this success and prestige at the pinnacle of the advertising industry did not satisfy his ambition completely.
He spent much of his life pioneering in the broader realms of idea development - teaching how to think creatively. He began with a manual he compiled on how to solve merchandising problems. This grew into the book How to Think Up and was followed by Your Creative Power, Make Up Your Mind and The Gold Mine Between Your Ears - each of which was translated into numerous foreign languages and sold widely.
He devoted the last decade of his life to promoting the Creative Education Foundation, which he financed by assigning to it the royalties from his books. The University of Buffalo and other universities established courses in creativity and by 1965 there existed campus courses applying his techniques in fields as far apart as architecture, animal husbandry, novel writing and police training. The Post Office Department issued a manual on the subject and the Air Force put 50,000 reserve officers through training in creative thinking on 300 campuses.
He is generally credited with creating such phrases as "brainstorming" and "creative imagination." The diversity of his interests, including avid participation in the University of Buffalo, fine arts, painting, hospital and other charitable causes, displayed the breadth of a citizen who made his mark by initiating and practicing the principles of creative living.