Kneebucklingly Sweet Idea Generation Tool: Brainwriting


Brainstorming is out!

Brainwriting is in!

Brainstorming Challenges

Brainstorming is something most of us know and have used at some point in our lives.

It’s a tool often used to create a list of spontaneous ideas contributed by a group. Alex Faickney Osborn popularized the tool in 1953. Osborn claimed that brainstorming was more effective than individuals working alone when creating lists of solutions.

Recently, critics have declared brainstorming ineffective and even damaging. Some say that over-bearing extroverts suppress the ideas of creative introverts. Blocking is another challenge since only one individual can share an idea at a time. Others may forget what they are going to say while waiting their turn. Some believe that participants tend to match their rate of idea generation with others in the group which may lead to fewer ideas.

Try Brainwriting Instead

Brainwriting is simple.

Rather than have participants shout out ideas as they each take turns, this process allows everyone to generate as many ideas as possible as fast as possible. Participants can also build upon other participants ideas.

Here are the steps.

1. Identify and announce the problem or issue.

Answer any immediate questions about that problem but keep responses generic.

2. Distribute paper and pen to everyone.

One sheet of notebook or copy paper should be enough.

3. Ask each participant to write down as many ideas for solutions to the problem as possible within two or three minutes.

They write as many as possible as fast as possible. Wild ideas are welcomed. idea about a specific problem or issue. They write as many ideas as possible as fast as possible in a limited amount of time.

4. Ask participants to pass the paper to the person on their left.

If they are sitting in rounds, have them rotate clockwise. If theater, pass to the left or right.

5. Give them two-four minutes to read the responses and add additional ideas to that list.

Remind them that wild ideas count!

6. Repeat the process a third time.

Repeating this process allows participants to see other’s perspective which might spark new ideas.

7. Collect all responses and post on flip chart paper.

Posting the responses is not required and works for smaller groups. Give the group a 5 or 10 minute break while you post all the responses on flip chart paper. Use the exact verbiage as written.

8. After the break, have participants read all the options.

To take the process further, give everyone five to seven dots and tell them to mark the ideas they like the most. Then discuss which ideas rose to the top receiving the most votes.

Brainwriting Works Great For…

  • Large groups of several hundred people, the brainwriting process works better than brainstorming. It gives everyone a chance to participate.
  • Introverts as it allows them the chance to participate equally without having to deal with overbearing extroverts.
  • When you have a limited amount of time and need to generate ideas quick.
  • You don’t have an experienced facilitator.
  • You are worried about others influencing participants like in traditional brainstorming.

For more information:

Brainstorming Is Dead; Long Live Brainstorming
Groupthink: Brainstorming Myth
Using Brainwriting For Rapid Idea Generation

What are some of the benefits of using brainwriting as compared to brainstorming? What are some challenges of brainwriting?

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  1. I have used this and it works. In an agency I worked with, we distributed the questions to be discussed and ideas needed to be generated. Apart from discussions individuals answered and then brought them together. Wisdom from the normally silent ones were heard.


  2. We developed Teamput ( to mirror the process of stick-note brainwriting and collaboration. In fact, Teamput is the only cloud-based app with side-by-side brainwriting and collaboration canvases. You can set up canvases with each person’s name. When it’s time to pass, just open the next person’s canvas in split screen view and pass your note(s).

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