Brainwriting Explained

Brainwriting is a brainstorming exercise that helps build creative solutions that have multiple perspectives integrated into them. By integrating collaboration and teamwork, brainwriting eliminates some common pitfalls of traditional, informal brainstorming.

This template can be used for problem-solving, innovation, or to promote creativity within a team.

The most typical brainwriting format is the 6-3-5 method, where 6 people create 3 ideas in 5 minutes. This process repeats as they find creative ways to build on other people’s ideas before finally returning to their initial column. Each person will move diagonally to the bottom right after creating their initial idea, expanding on someone else’s idea each step of the way. By doing this, Brainwriting forces teams to find creative solutions while brainstorming within the context of the group.

How To Use Fresco’s Brainwriting Template

Step 1: Communicate Rules and Parameters

The first step in the brainwriting process is selecting the template and setting clear goals for the team. Each person should have a clear understanding of what brainwriting is, why it’s being conducted, and the specific goals of the session.

Some possible goals could be to analyze a common customer issue, brainstorm new product ideas, or innovate new solutions.

Everyone must know how brainwriting works because as they use the template, they will need to move between different ideas fast, and it’s essential that everyone is on the same page for this process.

Step 2: Identify the Mission

Next, you must create a mission, problem statement, or goal for the exercise. It’s important that everyone understand what they’re working towards and where to focus their ideas so they can collaborate effectively. The mission statement will be the prompt for the initial set of ideas.

Step 3: Brainstorm Initial Ideas and Begin Collaborating

Once everyone understands how to use the brainwriting template, they must be assigned a role and begin brainstorming their initial idea. Each person will write their idea at the top of their column, and after the time limit is up, they will move diagonally down and to the right to expand on someone else’s note. This will repeat in cycles of 3 minutes until everyone has contributed something in every column.

Brainwriting online is easier than in person because it doesn’t require a moderator to gather the sheets and redistribute them at the end of each round. On an online whiteboard, each participant simply moves to the next column and continues working within each timeframe until they reach their column again.

It’s important to remember that when editing previous ideas, look back at the previous contributions to gain perspective on how each idea has evolved and where it could go next.

Step 4: Analyze the Results

After everyone has finished, take 10-15 minutes to discuss everyone’s initial idea, where the rest of the team took it, and how it relates to the initial problem set by the mission statement.

Hopefully, this exercise helped surface some new possibilities for your team and provided some key insights into how different team members approach creative problem-solving.


What Are the Advantages of Brainwriting?

Brainwriting is an exercise that can be easily conducted with any team. It generates high-quality ideas and forces people to think outside the box. Here are some of the benefits of brainwriting.


  • It’s Fast & Effective: One major advantage of brainwriting is it’s fast and effective. Within a short amount of time, teams can generate many informed ideas and talking points that would take much longer when brainstorming traditionally.
  • Integrates Collaboration: Brainwriting ensures that everyone in the team has an equal say. Everyone will contribute the same amount of ideas and will have just as much to talk about as anyone else. This integrates collaboration for everyone and helps the team in the long run.
  • Applicable Anywhere: Brainwriting is a simple exercise that can be conducted anywhere using Fresco’s template. Any team all across the world can conduct this exercise, synchronously or asynchronously, and collaborate to create new ideas.
  • Stimulates Innovation & Creativity: After the first round, people need to innovate to find new ideas and progressions to the previous ideas. This stimulates innovative and creative thinking within the team and provides a creative spin to problem-solving.


When to Utilize Brainwriting

Brainwriting is a useful adaptation of a typical team brainstorming session and helps capitalize on team collaboration. Here are some common applications for Brainwriting.


  • Brainstorming new ideas: Brainwriting is ideal for accumulating a ton of ideas in a short amount of time. Given the time restrictions and collaborative nature of the exercise, each template can produce a minimum of 36 ideas in a short amount of time (with 6 participants). Given how brainstorming can stagnate in a team, brainwriting helps provide an actionable structure to ensure that doesn’t happen.
  • Facilitating participation: One of the great parts of brainwriting is it forces everyone to contribute equally, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard. Traditional brainstorming can drown out quieter voices, but brainwriting throws them in the mix with everyone else.
  • Innovative problem-solving: Brainwriting isn’t just brainstorming; it forces people to build on ideas they didn’t come up with. Doing so in a time crunch means people have to think on their feet, ideate unique solutions, and draw from their personal perspectives, creating an influx of creativity and innovative thought that might not crop up otherwise.


Brainwriting Example

  • Step 1: Each participant is assigned their own column and color of note to track their progress across the board. Additionally, the “Help Tab” on the right side allows them to see the instructions at any time to remind them how to conduct the exercise.
  • Step 2: The mission of this board is to evolve the customer experience for a collaborative document editor. With this in mind, all the participants will add their initial idea at the head of their column.
  • Step 3: Proceeding down and to the right, each participant continues to add new notes for each idea, round after round. By building on previous additions, they can look deeper into the experience they’re auditing and find new solutions that help address the main pain points.
  • Step 4: Finally, the team can sit back and reflect on the ideas they’ve created. Each column has a specific theme of how to address the broken customer experience, and going down the column are multiple different ideas on how this can be done effectively.

Learn More

Scope creep is a term that refers to the expansion of scope throughout the course of a project. Learn how to avoid it by using Fresco.

A fishbone diagram is a template that breaks down problems in a way that helps teams identify and address the root cause of an issue.

The Agile methodology is a workflow that emphasizes cyclical improvements, collaboration, and frequent adaptation in order to solve problems.

Mind Maps present a unique solution to brainstorming and offer an intuitive structure to help you retain information. Learn more on Fresco.

Stakeholder mapping is the process of identifying, diagramming, and prioritizing stakeholders by analyzing their influence over and interest in a project

Online whiteboards do an incredible job connecting workspaces and engaging people in various collaboration activities. Learn more on Fresco.

Visual collaboration enables people to expand their connection globally, and unlock a world of new capabilities. Read to find out just what is possible.

With the workplace changing permanently, people must adapt to embrace virtual activities. Learn how to optimize your next virtual workshop at Fresco!

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