Creativity Techniques – Brainwriting – Rapid Idea Generation

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Individual brainstorming sometimes loses out on the “chain-reaction” that group brainstorming thrives upon. Brainwriting is a technique that has the benefits of both.

Let us start with a brief introduction to the structure and process of Brainwriting. Remember that
brainwriting quite like brainstorming focuses upon generating quantity and not quality.

Here’s what you’d be doing to organize a successful brainwriting session.

Organizing a Brain-Writing Process in 8 Steps:

  1. Write a goal/problem statement.
  2. Prepare IGSs (Idea Generation Sheets) for all the participants. (Check Brainwriting at Mycoted, for a simple format.)
  3. Coop up (sorry!) all participants in a conference room, and seat them around a table.
  4. Decide upon a time (say 5 minutes) in which every participant has to generate at least 3 ideas, and put them down on that sheet.
  5. After 5 minutes, ask the participants push their sheets to a neighbor. Everyone pushes the sheets in one direction, either clockwise or anticlockwise.
  6. Ask the participants to use the sheet that has arrived to add 3 more ideas. They may either base their ideas on their neighbor’s ideas, or they can think of entirely new ideas.
  7. Let the activity continue, until every participant has written on every sheet.
  8. Collate, discuss, and select.

Generally this activity is carried out with 6 participants who add 3 ideas every 5 minutes – and so it’s also called the 635 technique!

Benefits of Brainwriting over Brainstorming:

  • Doesn’t make the introverted participants feel threatened/uncomfortable.
  • Allows the participants some quiet time to think about ideas, so the quality of ideas is better.
  • Reduces the chances of ideas being blocked, as nobody speaks, and so nobody listens (!)
  • Allows the moderator to work more efficiently and go home without popping 4 aspirins to ward off that headache, which usually results from moderating brainstorming sessions.


Possible Disadvantages of Brainwriting:

  • Not all participants would try hard to come up with original ideas. As they don’t have speak up until the end, they won’t be worried about their creativity being placed under the lens.
  • Not everyone is good at articulating his or her thoughts by writing. Such participants may be able to contribute more in the case of brainstorming.
  • The final output may be only “quantity” with no “quality” as the moderator had no opportunity to assist in the chain of thought-formation.

My View:

I have used a technique similar to brainwriting in one of my Instructional Storytelling Workshops, and it yielded great results. I think brainwriting is a quick method, which can be employed to generate ideas in short duration programs.

Designing your Own Brainwriting Workshops:

Try to vary the following:

  • number of participants
  • idea-generation time
  • number of ideas to be generated in the given time.
  • method of implementing brainwriting (for instance, instead of asking the participants to pass around the sheet of ideas, you can have them put their sheets in the center of the table, and pick another one from there. This will increase randomness and also improve anonymity.)