In this article, we’ll explore the concept of brainwriting, a structured method that encourages team members to generate ideas independently that are then shared as a group. Brainwriting fosters creativity, overcomes group thinking, and promotes equal participation.
Keep reading to learn how to implement brainwriting to unlock innovative thinking and enhance group collaboration!
What is brainwriting?
Brainwriting is a brainstorming technique used for generating ideas and promoting collaboration in groups. Unlike traditional brainstorming sessions where participants verbally share their ideas, brainwriting requires group members to silently write down their ideas on paper or digital platforms.
From there, individual ideas are circulated amongst the group, allowing participants to build and improve upon each other’s thoughts. When done correctly, brainwriting can encourage equal participation and foster a broader range of creative ideas on a topic.
Brainwriting is a versatile technique that can be used in tons of different contexts and industries, such as:
- Team meetings and workshops
- Design thinking and innovation processes
- Marketing and advertising
- Research and development
- Problem-solving and decision-making
Mind maps are a great tool to keep track of the innovative ideas and solutions brainwriting produces. Try MindManager® today to start your brainwriting journey!
Brainwriting vs. brainstorming
Brainwriting and brainstorming are both ideation techniques used to generate ideas and promote collaboration within a group. However, there are some key similarities and differences between the two methods.
Some similarities include:
- Purpose. Both brainwriting and brainstorming aim to generate a large number of ideas within a group setting.
- Group participation. Both techniques involve group participation, encouraging individuals to contribute their thoughts and ideas.
- Creativity. Brainwriting and brainstorming are designed to stimulate creative thinking and foster innovative solutions.
- Iteration and building upon ideas. Both techniques allow for the expansion and improvement of ideas through the contributions of other participants.
Some key differences include:
- The process. In brainstorming, ideas are verbally shared out loud, whereas brainwriting involves the written sharing of ideas. Brainwriting provides a structured and more focused approach to idea generation.
- Individual contributions. In brainstorming, the focus is often on the loudest or most assertive individuals, potentially leading to dominance and groupthink. Brainwriting, on the other hand, promotes equal participation and gives a voice to all participants, overcoming the influence of vocal individuals.
- Silence and reflection. Brainwriting allows individuals to silently reflect and write down their ideas, which can lead to more thoughtful and diverse contributions. Brainstorming, being more spontaneous, may not allow for the same level of individual reflection.
- Idea diversity. Brainwriting tends to generate a broader range of ideas since participants are not influenced by others’ suggestions during the ideation process. Brainstorming, on the other hand, can sometimes result in idea convergence or the amplification of popular ideas due to group dynamics.
What brainwriting does that brainstorming can’t
While both brainwriting and brainstorming aim to generate ideas and foster collaboration, there are some things that brainwriting can do that brainstorming cannot.
Unlike brainstorming, brainwriting offers a more inclusive, structured, and diverse approach to ideation. Here are some of the things that brainwriting does extremely well:
- It overcomes dominance. Brainwriting reduces the dominance of vocal individuals and provides a platform for everyone to contribute ideas, ensuring equal participation.
- It encourages introverted participation. Brainwriting allows introverted individuals or those who are less comfortable speaking up in a group setting to contribute their ideas without any barriers.
- It diversifies idea generation. Brainwriting promotes a wider range of ideas by minimizing the influence of others’ suggestions, enabling individuals to freely explore their thoughts and perspectives.
- It offers a structured approach. Brainwriting provides a structured framework for idea generation, ensuring that all participants have an equal opportunity to contribute and build upon ideas systematically.
Benefits of brainwriting
As mentioned, there are tons of benefits to using brainwriting to generate the flow of ideas. The five most notable benefits of brainwriting are:
1. Diverse idea generation
Brainwriting helps to facilitate the generation of diverse ideas. Because participants write down their thoughts independently from the group, they’re not easily influenced by other members’ suggestions during ideation.
The freedom to brainstorm without outline influence allows for wider perspectives, experiences, and approaches. By encouraging diverse idea generation, brainwriting increases the likelihood of discovering unique and innovative solutions.
2. Overcoming group thinking
Groupthink refers to the tendency for groups to prioritize conforming to the prevailing opinions or ideas of the group over independent judgment and versatile critical thinking. Therefore, brainwriting helps teams overcome groupthink by allowing individuals to come up with ideas independently from one another.
This independence during ideation reduces the pressure to conform to popular opinions, enabling participants to think more freely and creatively. Subsequently, brainwriting helps foster a broader range of ideas and encourages more innovative thinking.
3. Equal and fair participation
Brainwriting promotes equal and fair participation among team members. Unlike traditional brainstorming where dominant and headstrong individuals tend to have more influence, brainwriting allows every participant to contribute their ideas without bias or interruption.
The inclusivity that is frosted by brainwriting ensures all members’ perspectives are considered and valued, leading to more diverse and comprehensive outcomes.
4. Enhanced focus and reflection
Brainwriting promotes individual reflection and thoughtful ideation. By allowing participants to write down their ideas independently of the group, brainwriting encourages autonomous contemplation and deeper thinking.
The brainwriting approach stimulates more refined and well-developed ideas, as team members can consider various aspects and implications of a topic, idea, or problem before sharing their thoughts.
This contributes to higher-quality ideas and facilitates more meaningful discussions when the ideas are shared and built upon collectively.
5. Amplified introverted voices
In traditional brainstorming sessions, introverted individuals or those who are less comfortable speaking up may hesitate to share their ideas. Brainwriting provides a platform that caters to all personality types, enabling introverted participants to contribute their thoughts without any barriers.
This inclusivity ensures that valuable insights from introverted team members are not overlooked and that a variety of perspectives are considered.
Introduction to the 6-3-5 brainwriting technique
The 6-3-5 brainwriting technique facilitates rapid idea generation within a team by leveraging previous ideas for inspiration.
To do so, each person in a team of six members generates three ideas within a five-minute timeframe per round. By the end of six rounds, a total of 108 ideas may be generated, typically within a 30-minute timeframe.
Once all rounds are completed, participants take turns sharing their ideas with the entire group. These ideas can be read aloud, presented visually, or summarized briefly. During the sharing phase, participants engage in discussions, provide feedback, and build upon the ideas collectively.
The 6-3-5 brainwriting technique offers several benefits, including the generation of a large number of ideas, diverse perspectives, and equal participation. By incorporating multiple rounds of idea generation and iteration, teams can promote collaboration, build upon existing ideas, and foster creative thinking.
4 steps of the 6-3-5 brainwriting technique process
Below is a step-by-step walkthrough of the brainwriting process in five steps:
Step 1: Prepare for your brainwriting session
Gather a group of (ideally) six participants who will be involved in the brainwriting session.
Before starting, define a clear problem statement or topic for the ideation session. Be sure to provide each participant with a worksheet or individual sheets of paper divided into six rows and three columns.
Step 2: Idea generation rounds
During the brainwriting session, there will be as many rounds as there are participants. If you have six participants, there will be six rounds.
In the first round, participants silently write down three ideas related to the problem statement or idea in the first row of their worksheet. Each round should be five minutes.
After the time is up, participants pass their worksheets to their right-hand neighbor. Then, participants review the ideas written by their neighbor and, in the second row of their worksheet, add three new ideas inspired by the existing ones.
This process continues for subsequent rounds until all participants have contributed to each worksheet.
Step 3: Idea sharing and discussion
Once all rounds are completed, participants take turns sharing the ideas from their worksheets with the entire group. Each person’s sheet will have notes and ideas from each other member of the group without being directly connected to the person who wrote it.
These ideas should be read aloud, presented visually, or summarized in a brief format. During the sharing phase, participants engage in discussions, provide feedback, and build upon the ideas collectively.
Step 4: Evaluation and narrowing
After everyone in the group shares the ideas on their worksheets, the group collectively evaluates the generated ideas based on relevance, feasibility, and potential impact.
The evaluation process may involve voting, ranking, or further discussions to identify the most promising ideas for further development or implementation.
By following these four steps, the brainwriting process can help teams to enable idea generation, collaboration, and iterative improvement within a group, resulting in a diverse and extensive collection of ideas for further exploration and decision-making.
Brainwriting frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Brainwriting is a great way to ensure you and your team explore a topic to the fullest. Below are some of the most common questions asked about brainwriting:
What is brainwriting?
Brainwriting is a structured ideation technique that encourages individual idea generation in a group setting.
Here, participants silently and independently write down their ideas on worksheets, building upon each other’s contributions through multiple rounds. This method promotes equal participation, overcomes extroverted voices, and fosters a diverse range of creative ideas.
What is 6-3-5 brainwriting?
The 6-3-5 brainwriting technique is a collaborative ideation method that involves six participants generating ideas in multiple rounds. Each participant starts by independently and silently writing down three ideas within a given time limit.
After each round, participants pass their ideas to the next person who builds upon them, resulting in a continuous exchange and expansion of ideas. Through six five-minute rounds, a total of 108 ideas can be generated, creating a rich and diverse pool of creative solutions.
What’s the difference between brainwriting and brainstorming?
Brainwriting and brainstorming are both ideation techniques, but they differ in their approach and level of individual participation. In brainstorming, participants openly share ideas in a group discussion, allowing for real-time collaboration and immediate feedback.
Brainwriting, on the other hand, emphasizes individual idea generation, where participants independently write down their ideas without immediate verbal interaction. This reduces the influence of dominant individuals and encourages equal participation from all team members.
Brainwriting also provides more time for reflection and allows for a larger quantity of ideas to be generated compared to traditional brainstorming.
What are the benefits of brainwriting?
Brainwriting is a collaborative ideation technique that offers several benefits. It encourages equal participation from all team members, reduces the dominance of outspoken individuals, and allows for simultaneous generation of ideas, fostering a diverse and extensive range of innovative solutions.
Additionally, brainwriting promotes a non-judgmental environment, stimulating creativity and enabling individuals to build upon each other’s ideas, leading to higher-quality outcomes.
If you think brainwriting would benefit you and your team, consider using MindManager to help facilitate your sessions. MindManager is a mapping software that can quickly capture and transform your brainwriting ideas into clear, customizable visualizations.
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