Brainwriting – How to Innovate Your Brainstorming Sessions

For years Brainstorming was the standard way for groups to generate ideas and plans for their brands or products. Ingrained in workplaces and companies, brainstorming was more accessible for everyone to invite their employees and start a session centering on an issue or its solution. But this technique wasn’t always effective and caused problems like inefficiency and social anxiety among employees or team members. With the continuous advancement in our surroundings, brainstorming has evolved in many ways, and there are solutions that overcome previous pitfalls. One particularly effective technique is called “Brainwriting,” which is an advanced version of brainstorming. In this article, we will define brainwriting, discuss the advantages of doing it, and walk through how to conduct a successful brainwriting session.

What Is Brainwriting?

Brainwriting is an alternative approach to brainstorming that attempts to eliminate the adverse effects of traditional brainstorming. Brainwriting is a brainstorming method where users silently create ideas and comment on everyone else’s ideas before opening up a discussion. Participants can either posit new ideas in a chain of thought or can build on top of someone else’s suggestion.

The origin of brainwriting is blurry; however, the technique started gaining popularity in the 1970s in Germany. Since then, it has traveled its way to other countries globally, and today it is being used in almost every popular and successful firm.

According to popular research conducted in several companies by Kellogg School of Management shows, brainwriting has surpassed brainstorming in generating potential and unique ideas. By including more people than before and utilizing a structure that allows everyone to express innovative ideas, brainwriting is becoming a very popular ideation method.

What Makes Brainwriting Unique?

When it comes to brainwriting, it works best when there are mixed groups with multiple different personality types. It is also better for introverts or people who can express their ideas better on paper rather than speaking about them directly.

In brainwriting, there is no need to have a moderator conduct the activity because there is a simple structure that guides the session. Team members can easily start on their own session without any disturbance. On the other hand, most of the work in brainwriting is done simultaneously compared to brainstorming, where people wait for their turn to speak and participate.

These features make brainwriting a unique and powerful source for innovation and set it apart from traditional brainstorming.

Brainwriting Session Procedure

Most brainwriting sessions are conducted by following these steps:

  1. Each team member writes their ideas or suggestions on a shared document, ideally an online whiteboard. During the session, everyone should remain silent and withhold their comments until the end.
  2. After this, each team member will review the ideas and add more to them. It can be a new suggestion or a comment on the previously written statements.
  3. After everyone is finished, the board will be revealed, and everyone can read the rest of the ideas. This should take a minute or so and will allow everyone can grasp the entire board.
  4. Finally, the team will discuss how the ideas evolved along the way, the things they like most, and the things they dislike. This process includes everyone and must represent the full perspectives of the group.

Tips to Ensure Brainwriting Is Successful

To conduct a fruitful brainwriting session and ensure it is successful, you need to consider a few steps. Here are some tips to make your brainwriting activities productive.

Clarify Activity Rules

To start your activity and make it a success, you first have to explain and clarify to each of your participants the rules of brainwriting. Other than announcing your rules for the activity, announce the parameters you are applying to the session.

These parameters can be related to how much time you have given your participants to complete their tasks, or they can be connected to how much they have to write.

Focus on a Specified Problem or Theme

Always start your activity with a focused theme or problem that you want to be addressed or solved by your participants. This will allow everyone to provide creative and authentic ideas related to the problem or theme without any confusion.

This focused approach will also increase responses and ideas from your participants as multiple people will be thinking about the same material.

Allow Participants to have Enough Time to Note

If you are a leader of a brainwriting activity, you must give your participants a specified time to complete the task. You need to consider that the time limit you set must be feasible for them to write 3 to 4 ideas or solutions. Providing a short time limit is helpful for both ideating in a crunch and ensuring enough conversation time.

Share All Ideas at a Specific Place

All the recorded ideas and suggestions should be shared in one single place for everyone to benefit from the activity. This is where online whiteboards are particularly helpful. They grant shared access to a permanent document that lives online, which means everyone can access it anytime.

Furthermore, collecting and displaying ideas at one particular place helps people see how much other members are capable of, and they too can get inspired by such creativity.

Brainwriting Advantages

There are multiple perks of conducting a brainstorming session, and a few of them are listed below.

Everyone Shares

In brainwriting, the shy and less talkative people have their chance to state their opinions and ideas without the fear of interruptions. This boosts team morale and contributes to the best of their abilities in such sessions.

More efficient than brainstorming in generating results

A quick brainwriting session can easily generate ideas faster and more efficiently than brainstorming. In brainstorming, only a few get the recognition to present their vision, and the rest wait for their turn and often get neglected due to louder voices. Brainwriting is a perfect way to ensure efficient results and participation.

Generates an environment of encouragement and acceptance

No matter what type of idea or suggestion is presented by the team members or participants. No one can stop or interrupt someone during the session. Everyone can suggest ideas and insert their unique opinions on their own time, which will all be seen by the team.

Yields Diverse Approaches

Often when we present one theme or a particular problem in a brainwriting session, teammates or group members come up with various dimensions to solve that specific problem. This gives a versatile approach to the problem and helps in understanding the issue in a better way.

No dominance over other participants

Dominance can be of anything; it can be related to ideas. It can include a subtle pressure of seniors vs. juniors or the influence of a more creative person over other less creative members.

In brainwriting, every step is neutral, unbiased, and transparent. At the end, when suggestions are picked, the process is also kept transparent and attached to critical answering rather than being related to favoritism.

Unique Brainwriting Variations

A prominent factor that made brainwriting surpass the traditional brainstorming technique in popularity and effectiveness. This prominent factor is brainwriting’s multiple variants that indulge every type of group and is suitable for all types of teams for generating ideas and solutions.

We have listed some of the commonly utilized brainwriting variants below.

The Classic Method 635 Brainwriting

It is one of the oldest variants of brainwriting and was created by Bend Rohrbach. He named it Method 635. However, there are two different 635 variants, but we are only penning down the classical and most effective one.

In the classical “Method 635”, participants are asked to write their ideas on particular cards or forms. This variant technique can be performed by six people within 5 minutes, noting down three ideas or suggestions. The card, including the written ideas, is then transferred to other participants, and the process goes on until the 5-minute duration is completed.

The Pool Variant

In pool brainwriting, participants have to sit facing each other and silently write their ideas on paper. When they complete writing, they are asked to place their papers in the center of the table. The other members are free to pull out a couple of these papers and write their own.

One open rule in this variant is the process of picking paper will start at the end of the session. Each participant has to write down their fair share of ideas.

Brainstorming Graphic Organized Techniques

This is one technique that is based solely on visualization. Participants visualize the problem and participate through a visual collaboration tool. This technique is based on maturing assumptions, and participants identify their problems by assuming their possible solutions.

This graphic organized technique works on three basic frameworks called webs, tree diagrams, flow diagrams.

  • Web: It is easy for the group to develop a central concept or theme through a web format. It further identifies its characteristics, facts, and related ideas. The web format is pretty much identical to a mind map.
  • Tree Diagrams: As its name suggests, tree diagrams are based on a more hierarchical communication among the groups or team members. It is an interconnecting relationship between the main idea and its supporting sub-ideas.
  • Flow: A flow diagram technique is helpful in creating accurate sequences of the events, and also it is to represent the actions and reactions of different elements within the system. You can also flexibly communicate a process or show a relation of cause and effect of interlinked issues.
  • Collaborative Brainwriting: This technique is ideal for those who have an introverted nature and often avoid face-to-face meetups. You are allowed to select a space in this technique. The place or area should be accessible to everyone. Within that selected time frame, other team members can give ideas or suggestions to that proposed suggestion from your side. In this technique, nobody faces any pressure or feels stagnant when it comes to the time limit. This technique is flexible and allows everyone to participate according to their feasible time.
  • Remote Brainwriting: This technique is quite similar to a collaborative one, but instead of a space or a place, participants write down or present their suggestions on virtual platforms. This is designed specifically for remote teams or offices. The team has to respond to a certain question or theme according to a given time frame and allows everyone to post their ideas or suggestions on given remote platforms.

Which One Works the Best?

We have stated multiple variants of brainwriting that can help every type of group in accomplishing a great session full of creative ideas. However, some factors make these variants stand out for some and a failure for others.

For instance, the classic Method635 is the most effective but can be tedious for experienced users. On the other hand, the Graphic Organizer Tree Diagram makes the visualization experience a treat for the eyes of the participants. Team members tend to engage more in the organized visual approach than any other.

Conclusion

Brainwriting exercises are crucial for teams that brainstorm often, and using them can help reveal new possibilities for any team. If you liked this article, make sure you stay tuned to Fresco for more collaborative content.

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