Brainwriting is a process to come up with ideas. It is a group activity where everybody has to participate. Brainstorming means people have to talk about their ideas; no holds are barred. This is good only for people who are very vocal.
Brainwriting allows a group to come up with ideas and solve many problems through writing together. Although the group gets involved in a centered and individualistic manner, it is a combined effort as people develop on other’s ideas. A great pro is that one cannot be cut off when they are writing.
History of Brainwriting
Dr. Maria Salas, Dr. Hermann Tillman, and Neill McKee (former Chief, PCIS, UNICEF Bangladesh) discussed brainwriting in their Visualization in Participatory Programs Manual (1993).
They employed this technique in the UNICEF-backed efforts in Bangladesh for the decision-making process of communicating and social mobilizing. Using variations of these methods, VIPP has its sources in Germany and Latin America.
These come from the primary works of Eberhard Schnelle (Metaplan), Orlando Fals Borda and Paulo Freire etc.
Brainstorming vs Brainwriting
A Teacher in Dispute Resolution at Northwestern Kellogg, Professor Leigh Thompson, came up with an inventive and efficient technique for meetings. It is called Brainwriting. “Brainstorming is the simultaneous oral generation of ideas.”
When to use Brainwriting?
When things have to be said without restrictions. When there are a lot of demure/private/inner-directed people in a group.
When there is not enough time to go over issues or problems. If there are a lot of singular problems that require innovative solutions.
How does Brainwriting Work?
The supervisor brings a topic to six people sitting together.
Everybody has a grid to write three ideas down in. They have 5 min to go from left to right.
All sheets are then passed on to the participant on the right in five minutes.
People get five more minutes for three more ideas to be written down. These can be new or build on previous ones.
This goes on till the sheet comes back to the original person. In half an hour, each person has put forth 18 solutions, a total of 108
Repetitive ideas are removed. The moderator guides the team towards the best ideas.
Etiquette for participants
- Readable and clear handwriting.
- Give out many solutions.
- Offer constructive criticism.
- Develop people’s solutions: update and evolve minus the critique.
Approaches to Brainwriting
- Brainwriting while interacting.
- 6-3-5 Brainwriting.
- Brainwriting with the help of Idea cards.
- Spreadsheet Method.
6-3-5 Brainwriting (or 635 Method, Method 635) is a collective structured method. Its goal is to encourage more creative processes by inciting innovation. Bernd Rohrbach had come up with this concept. It was printed in “The Absatzwirtschaft,” a German sales magazine, in 1968.
In summary, it had six people overseen by a mediator. They have to write down three solutions on a particular worksheet in 5 minutes. This was the origin of the name.
Once six rounds were done, 108 ideas were formed in half an hour. In this time period, participants exchange worksheets, giving them to team members to their right. The method is used in a lot of industries. It is most commonly used in writing, design, marketing, business, along daily real-life circumstances.
Brainwriting Pros and Cons
- It can be learned easily and fast as it’s a very direct technique.
- The moderator doesn’t have to be trained.
- It highlights the various backgrounds that participants might come from. This is because it promotes sharing information.
- All solutions are put on the worksheet. Because of this, no one oversees note-taking for the full session. This has a motivational effect. This way, one can keep tabs on who came up with what.
- This greatly improves efficiency. One hundred eight solutions are created with only six employees.
- Displaying ideas on paper might cause problems. People might have trouble summing up what they feel. They might not understand their coworker’s diagrams or what they have written.
- Pressure because of the time limit as it could lower quality. People also need time to get used to the method.
- Ideas that are similar might conflict. Innovation is harmed as there is no discussion.
Brainstorming Challenges solved by Brainwriting
1. Brainstorming is dominated by vocal people
- The fix: In brainwriting, each person can and has to say something in the process.
- Every person’s solutions are measured by the same standard. The best voices are paid attention to and not the loudest. This is because ideas are put forth anonymously.
2. Brainstorming makes people think like a hive
- The fix: Everybody writes their solution on paper. This disallows anybody to have more weight.
- People are encouraged to work on other people’s ideas. They can also add a new idea if it occurs to them.
- People can work on someone else’s ideas till all possible routes are taken.
3. Brainstorming can create bad ideas.
- The fix: 100 plus ideas are created in a brainwriting session. A team can discard bad ideas and pick the good ones.
4. Introverted people are silent in brainstorms
- The fix: Even introverts are fine with brainwriting as it involves writing.
- Brainwriting lets people who are eloquent work on the ideas of people who are less so and express them better.
5. Brainstorming lets people be apathetic
- The fix: People can’t sit brainwriting sessions out.
- Everybody contributes.
- Ideas are put forth anonymously. If sheets are empty, then supervisors can step in.