Brainwriting: a new way of brainstorming

Michiel Destoop
February 2, 2017
⏱ 2 min. read

Brainstorming in silence. You should try it with your marketing colleagues. Instead of shouting your ideas, you write a few ideas down on paper and pass it on to your colleagues for their inspiration.

The traditional way of brainstorming is not everyone's cup of tea. Brainstorming is mostly interesting for people who like to share their ideas in a group. But, let's think about these situations for a second:

  • An introvert person might have good ideas, but might need more time to reflect on them. He or she doesn't like being in the spotlights either.
  • In a bigger group there's always someone who likes to hide, or isn't fully focused on the task at hand.
  • Colleagues might feel intimidated by the hierarchy within the company. With brainwriting, a trainee's idea is given the same importance as an idea by the boss. Plus: there's no such thing as a bad idea!
  • What's typical of a storm? It's chaos! That's why some ideas might get too little attention.
  • Or there might be practical issues. Getting everyone in the same place at the same time could be a problem (multinationals, traffic jams, busy schedules). The brainwriting technique can be used online.

How to brainwrite

  1. The organizer writes down the issue, or presents it orally.
  2. You might take some time for discussion: everyone needs to be well-informed about the issue. 
  3. Participants get a sheet of paper.
  4. They write down their ideas or remarks.
  5. The sheet of paper gets passed on to the next participant, so that he or she can write down new ideas or remarks.
preliminary discussion before the brainwriting session
Preliminary discussion before the brainwriting session

Scientifically proven

In the strict sense as Bernd Rohrbach described in 1968, the brainwriting technique should be accomplished by 6 persons who write down 3 ideas, within 5 minutes. After round six you'll have 108 ideas within half an hour. That's why this technique has also been called the 6-3-5 brainwriting method. Brainwriting has, however, been used equally sucessful in smaller and in larger groups.

Professor Bernard Nijstad did research on better brainstorming techniques. He gathered several teams in his lab and had half the teams brainstorm traditionally. The other teams would write down their ideas on pieces of paper, and pass them on to other members of their team.  

Nijstad didn't only tally the number of ideas that the teams collected, he also had them evaluated by an independent jury. It turned out the brainwriting method generated twice the number of ideas, but also twice the number of good ideas.

BonusDownload this brainwriting template (PDF) to put this brainwriting-technique into practice.

Brainwriting can also be done online, even in our Husky Marketing Planner application. Each project has a place to gather notes or write down a strategy. The only thing you need to do, is write down the issue, come up with a few ideas and send your colleague the link to the web page. They'll need to write down their ideas and comments and pass it on to the next one.

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Read more about notes here or book an online demo.