In the previous article, we focused on generating ideas using the method of brainwriting. In this article, we describe how to conduct a brainwriting session.
Brainwriting has many varieties, including interactive brainwriting, 6-3-5 method, idea cards or online brainwriting. Let’s have a look at all brainwriting techniques!
- Introduce this idea generation process to all participants.
- Hand out paper for each participant to write down ideas.
- Provide a clear explanation of a problem. Focus on questions resulting from the issue and ask participants to propose appropriate answers and ideas (you can print out a page with the statement at the top or write it on a board).
- Determine the schedule of the brainwriting session (for example, three minutes for the first round and two minutes for the next four rounds) and the process for passing the pages with answers (for example, clockwise). A vaguely defined page-passing process could undermine the credibility and progress of the meeting.
- Ask if anyone has questions about the problem-to-be-solved and the brainwriting process.
- Remind participants to read the ideas generated during previous sessions and to feel free to expand, change or modify them with theirs.
- Make sure participants have enough extra paper.
- Start the first round.
- Clearly announce the end of the first round, as well as the beginning and end of the following. At the end of each round, ask participants to pass their paper in the agreed direction.
- At the end of the session, collect the pages and prepare them for comment, additional ideas, and suggestions.
During the brainwriting method known as 6-3-5, six participants are asked to provide three ideas for solving a problem in five minutes. Try to motivate the participants to come up with original ideas and find inspiration in the ideas generated by other participants.
The ideas are written in silence so that participants do not influence each other. After the first five minutes, participants pass their ideas to the person sitting next to them, who reviews them and adds new ones.
The entire process is repeated six times, which means 6×3×6 (or 104) ideas generated. Moreover, in practice, you find that people come up with more than three ideas.
Ask participants to write their ideas on cards. When they finish writing, they must place the card off to the side. If a participant needs inspiration, he can have a look at some cards with ideas generated by his colleagues and try to continue the creative process. Each card must present only one idea.
A variation of this process is called "one idea, quick pass”. Each participant writes one idea on a piece of paper and then hands it to the person sitting next to him, who adds one more idea. The process is repeated until the leader of the session ends it.
If you want to hold a remote brainwriting session, you can use the online Excel Spreadsheet. You make a list of participants and ask each of them to write ideas in a single column of the spreadsheet.
If every participant writes his ideas into one cell, the other can use them as a source of inspiration. This method can foster the spirit of competition that can refresh the entire idea-generating process.
Brainwriting or Brainstorming?
As we mentioned in the previous article on brainwriting, this method has several advantages compared to the more familiar brainstorming. Given that participants write their ideas on a piece of paper and do not discuss the problem, you get many ideas in a relatively short space of time. This process includes all participants and, therefore, the shy ones get the chance to express their ideas.
Moreover, participants do not sign their answers and brainwriting is thus a kind of anonymous. Participants can come up with suggestions they would not say loud because they would be afraid of the reaction of their superordinates. Moreover, papers with ideas passed among all participants generate suggestions that would otherwise never see the light of the day.
To evaluate the ideas, you can use the same procedures as we recommended for brainstorming.