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Creativity Techniques

BrainWriting is a technique similar to Brainstorming and Trigger Sessions. There are many varieties, but the general process is that all ideas are recorded by the individual who thought of them. They are then passed on to the next person who uses them as a trigger for their own ideas. Examples of this include;

BrainWriting Pool

Each person, using Post-it notes or small cards, writes down ideas, and places them in the centre of the table. Everyone is free to pull out one or more of these ideas for inspiration. Team members can create new ideas, variations or piggyback on existing ideas.

BrainWriting 6-3-5

The name Brainwriting 6-3-5 comes from the process of having 6 people write 3 ideas in 5 minutes. Each person has a blank 6-3-5 worksheet (below)

Problem Statement: How to...
Idea 1 Idea 2 Idea 3

Everyone writes the problem statement at the top of their worksheet (word for word from an agreed problem definition). They then write 3 ideas on the top row of the worksheet in 5 minutes in a complete and concise sentence (6-10 words). At the end of 5 minutes (or when everyone has finished writing) pass the worksheet to the person on your right. You then add three more ideas. The process continues until the worksheet is completed.

There will now be a total of 108 ideas on the 6 worksheets. These can now be assessed.

Idea Card Method

Each person, using Post-it notes or small cards, writes down ideas, and places them next to the person on his or her right. Each person draws a card from there neighbours pile as needed for inspiration. Once the idea has been used, it is passed on to the person on the right along with any new, variations or piggybacked ideas. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

BrainWriting Game

This method is set in the form of a light-hearted competitive game. Creativity methods normally avoid competition because it tends to be divisive. However, as long as the game atmosphere is fun rather than overly competitive, and the facilitator ensures that there are no significant losers, the game format might be useful, particularly in training contexts where winning and losing are likely to be less of an issue and both can be used to provide teaching material.

The game will take a little longer than some other brainwriting techniques. Very little facilitation skill is needed. The structure is as follows:

  1. Display the problem statement, and explain that the winner of the game is the one who devises the most unlikely solution.
  2. The facilitator sells each group member an agreed number (say 10) of blank, serially numbered cards at, say, 10p each, pooling the money to form the prize. Each group member signs a receipt that records the serial numbers of their set of cards.
  3. Members try to think of utterly implausible solutions, writing one per card. The cards are then put up on a display board.
  4. Members now have (say) 15 minutes to silently read all the solutions, and to append to them (on further un-numbered cards or Post-its) ways in which they could be converted into a more practical way of solving the problem (so reducing that ideas’ chances of winning).
  5. Each member then has two votes (e.g. two sticky stars) to vote for what s/he now considers to be the most improbable idea on the numbered cards. The idea that attracts most votes wins the pooled money.
  6. Form two sub-groups, give half the cards to each, and give each group (say) 15 minutes to develop six viable solutions from their cards.
  7. Each sub-group tries to ‘sell’ their ideas to the other sub-group.
  8. Everyone comes together and agrees on the best ideas overall.

Constrained BrainWriting

On a number of occasions you may want to constrained ideas around pre-determined focus, rather than ranging freely. The versions described here use the standard Brainwriting pool technique, but bias the idea generation by using brain-writing sheets prepared in advance.

  1. Present starter ideas: The leader initiates the process by placing several prepared sheets of paper in the pool in the centre of the table (see note below).
  2. Private brainwriting: Each group member takes a sheet, reads it, and silently adds his or her ideas.
  3. Change sheet: When a member runs out of ideas or wants to have the stimulation of another’s ideas, s/he puts one list back in the centre of the table and takes one returned by another member. After reviewing this new list s/he has just selected, s/he adds more ideas.
  4. Repeat until ideas are exhausted. No discussion at any stage.

Varying the level of constraint

Cued brainwriting: For mild constraint, the sheets are simply primed with one or more starting ideas (e.g. SWOT's, issues) in the required area.

Structured brain-writing: For a stronger constraint the sheets can be formally headed, each sheet relating to a particular issue or theme, with participants being asked to keep the ideas they contribute on each sheet relevant to the issue in the heading on that sheet.

See Card Story Boards, for another way of directing idea generation.