Brainwriting is a variation on traditional brainstorm techniques. It begins with people writing their ideas down on paper in front of them before sharing them aloud. It doesn’t require anyone but the facilitator to talk, and can be adapted in many ways.
Use this exercise when your brainstorm participants are quiet or need to ‘save face.’ They can write down their ideas and pass them around the room, and ultimately when read, no one knows whose ideas is whose. It’s also a perfect solution when you have a brainstorm participant who talks endlessly and/or who refuses to listen to any other participant’s ideas!
- Hand out sheets of paper to the participants, and outline the brainstorm problem, need or want.
- Each person begins by writing any initial ideas on the paper.
- After a minute or more, depending upon how much people are writing, people to pass the paper to another person, either left, right or across the table.
- After reading the page, people either add to the initial idea, branch off on a relevant tangent, or create a fresh new idea. There’s no right or wrong step: just keep brainstorming.
- After a few minutes, pass again. Repeat until the pages are filled.
- After several rotations, ask people to read the best idea from all ideas on the page in front of them. List the best ideas on the flip-chart and now brainstorm aloud.
Ask people to write their ideas on index cards. When finished, ask them to put their card into a pile at the centre of the table. Ask everyone to select a new card to build on the idea already printed there. They write their idea and return it to the centre of the table. Pick another card, and so on.
Brainwriting on E-mail
I used this exercise once to brainstorm about new ways to promote drinking black tea. By e-mail, I asked people from ten different offices around the world to participate in a brainstorm – all of whom were representative of the brainstorm types of page X.
We began with a basic e-mail describing the brainstorm purpose and what we needed. With a few instructions, I asked everyone to write in the body of the e-mail their ideas to promote drinking tea. Then, I asked everyone to distribute it to just three other people – and a ‘cc’ to me – to brainstorm more ideas.
Because the distribution list was global, I gave people 24-36 hours to respond. Another great benefit of this method: you don’t have to do any writing! You only have to swipe and copy, then edit.
How have you used brainwriting as a brainstorm technique?