What is Brainwriting?

Smartpedia: Brainwriting is a non-verbal creativity technique for idea generation where participants document ideas in writing, share them and continue to develop them individually.

Brainwriting – the quiet creativity technique

Brainwriting is a creativity technique for finding ideas or solving problems. In contrast to the conventional creativity technique, brainstorming, brainwriting is completely silent. Each participant writes his or her ideas on a defined topic – ideally in a predetermined time – on a sheet of paper and makes this paper available to another participant in a subsequent round. In this and the following rounds, each participant has the opportunity to describe their own ideas or to develop ideas from other participants.

Brainwriting Variants

The distribution of ideas varies according to the variant used:

  • The 6-3-5 method is probably the best known brainwriting variant. It defines a fixed process with 6 participants, 3 ideas per participant and 5 rounds.
  • In the brainwriting pool, the papers with the ideas are pushed into the middle of the table and each participant takes a sheet from this pool, supplements it with new ideas or develops existing ones further.
  • With the Collective Notebook, participants note down ideas and thoughts for a few days or weeks in a notebook that is exchanged at an agreed date.

Brainwriting advantages and disadvantages

Brainwriting offers a number of advantages:

  • The procedure and rules are easy to communicate.
  • The non-verbal brainstorming – similar to braindumping in a team – promotes a creative and open exchange, because due to the “anonymised ideas” there is no need to worry about immediate, negative feedback.
  • Introverted employees are also encouraged, who often see themselves at a disadvantage in brainstorming compared to extroverted employees. If a participant does not come up with another idea during the 6-3-5 method or the brainwriting pool, he or she keeps quiet and leaves the other participants the opportunity to develop further ideas in peace and in the given time.
    The further development of other participants’ ideas is made possible.
  • No minute-taker is needed, no idea is lost due to lack of documentation, and the worry of abbreviated and thus alienated summaries is eliminated.

Sometimes disadvantages of brainwriting are mentioned:

  • lack of spontaneity,
  • the need for concrete formulation, and
  • the possibility of multiple entries due to the simultaneous, anonymous writing down of ideas

are considered possible disadvantages. However, these examples are relatively easy to refute, because spontaneity is on the one hand relatively independent of a format, and on the other hand it may even be encouraged, since ideas from other participants can provide good impulses for additional ideas. And the problem of multiple nominations is actually only present in the first round and can thus also be disregarded.

Brainwriting example

Depending on the approach, a joint discussion on the ideas collected or a preparation of the results for a subsequent meeting follows after the ideas have been collected.

Brainwriting tips

Here are some simple tips that can help with brainwriting:

  • Since the participants are supposed to think about a defined topic individually and in peace, it is important that this is basically possible. Ideally, no one in the next room should be using a drill or listening to loud music. Whispering participants are also counterproductive; if necessary, the facilitator should intervene accordingly.
  • Entries that are difficult or impossible to read are a hindrance and should be avoided. Ideally, the facilitator should point this out when explaining the rules.
  • Formulating ideas in a nutshell is a skill. It is therefore advisable to give sufficient time to participants who had difficulty summarising their idea in a few words.
  • Ideally, the communication rules that apply to the exchange between participants should be explained by the facilitator after the collection of ideas. The aim should be for the exchange to be structured in a similar way to the collection of ideas.

 

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