FT8 Discovering new ideas -brainwriting

Coming up with new ideas can seem daunting, but there are tools you can use to make it easier.

There are many methods to encourage organizational or team ideation: Brainstorming and brainwriting, Sinektika, Writing ideas, Directed links, Fish bone (Ishikawin diagram), Six thinking hats, Mindmapping, Crazy8’s, Method of escape, just to mention a few. However, in this section, we are going to focus on Brainwriting

Brainwriting is a technique that works well with groups. But it is also a technique you can use on your own to break up the process into short and productive sessions. All that you need are sheets of paper and pens.

The first place to start is the problem statement. In this instance, the problem statements come in the form of the four scenarios and the key opportunities and challenges you have listed.

Take the first scenario. Read over the name and description, then the opportunities and threats you identified so you are fully familiar with the scenario. On a fresh piece of paper write down three ideas that would exploit the opportunities and overcome the threats. The idea may take the form of a new product or service. Set a time limit, say five minutes, to get your ideas down.

Write in block letters, so that everyone can read what is written on the paper. Try to be clear and concise in describing your idea, one-line sentences rather than paragraphs or single words. Try to be concrete in your description rather than using general terms such as better, more or larger. It is also useful to formulate ideas in a positive way and to avoid words such as not and no.

If you are working in a team, there should be no discussion at this point. This is an opportunity for each team member to write down their own ideas and / or comments without any challenges or criticism. Once the five minutes are over, pass your paper on to the team member next to you, who will then add another three ideas to the paper. This is done as many times as needed so that all team members have reviewed and commented. If there are six team members, this would be done five times.

Move on to the next scenario. Again, read over all the material on the scenario before writing your three ideas in your set time frame. Imagine yourself in the world of your scenario and try to generate ideas which capitalize on the opportunities, fulfil the needs, and meet the challenges of that future scenario before moving on to the next one. Follow the same process for reviewing and commenting if you are in a group. Complete this for all four scenarios.

You should now have generated lots of ideas with additional ideas or constructive comments added by team members to the ideas you started with. If you are working on your own go back over each sheet yourself to review and comment.

Read over the ideas for each scenario and group the similar ones together. Now you can start turning your brainwriting into visionary concepts. At this point you can discuss the ideas. Focus on how the new product or service capitalizes on an opportunity presented by the future scenario and overcomes the challenges.

Step-by-step guide for brainwriting:

  • Make sure you are using the right method. Brainwriting is a great option for generating good and diverse ideas.
  • Look at your starting point for ideation and consider if and how you will bring previous knowledge into the room.
  • Invite the right people to work beside your core team for the exercise.
  • Prepare your group with information and arrange them comfortably. Everyone will need identical thick pens and several sheets of identical paper or identical sticky notes.
  • Show the theme or key question on a poster or projector.
  • Ask the participants to work individually and silently, writing or sketching their ideas on paper or sticky notes. Instruct them on what to do with their sketches: pass them on to others for written comment and expansion, post them on a wall immediately for others to see, or even keep the ideas for themselves until the end of the exercise. 
  • At the end, display all the ideas on the wall. When all the ideas are on display you can group them under whatever criteria the group prefers, discuss them, and/or begin a selection technique.

Following this part (3:50) you will hear concrete tips on how to handle a brainwriting session.