If you work as part of a team, you may have meetings or talks where research and ideas are presented to the other members. New ideas may emerge out of this brainstorming meeting. These meetings can often impede some great ideas from coming forth. As everyone tries to get their ideas or questions in, you may forget what you were going say. Or the conversation gets sidetracked down one way of thinking and another interesting avenue is left unexplored.
We can avoid this with brain-writing. This is simply the process of everyone in a group sharing and building on ideas by silently writing them down. And you don’t just have to use words. Some ideas can be drawn or sketched out to better explain. No one has to be an award winning artist; as long as they idea is communicated the drawing is successful.
Brain-writing is great if you have a ground that is too large for a traditional brainstorming session. For instance, in a conference of 300 people it is difficult to get everyone’s opinions heard unless you organize it in a brain-writing type fashion. Brain-writing is also great if you have quiet people in your group who are intimidated by large, loud discussions, if you are short on time, or if you want to put an emphasis on having all voices heard and not just the most assertive people in the group.
With brain-writing, you can
- Speed up the process. Brainwriting means many ideas can be generated in a short period of time.
- Make the process easier. There is no facilitation needed with brainwriting.
- Save money. Instead of bringing everyone together for a conference and wasting time and money, you only need paper, cards and pens.
- Work in quiet. With writing only, no one is talking and it’s often easier to focus.
- Include everyone. Not everyone has a type-A personality and is good at making themselves heard. Shy or naturally quiet people can contribute just as much as anyone else.
There are lots of different methods of brainwriting that you can use in a research or brainstorming group.
6-3-5 Brainwriting is when you have 6 participants, 3 ideas and 5 minutes. Each person has to write down 3 ideas on a piece of paper. Set a timer for 5 minutes. When time is up, each person passes their paper to the person beside them and that person builds on those ideas. You can do this for 30 minutes for 108 new ideas.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed format, you can write on cards and eliminate the timing aspect of the option above. Each person writes their ideas on a card and passes it around. Ideas can flow more freely as each person takes as long or short as they need to build on the idea on the card.
There are many other methods including brain-writing in the lab, gallery method, and any variation that works for you and your team.