Brainwriting is the silent, written form of generating ideas in a group and right now it’s getting a lot of attention from people who work in companies where generating ideas is their main task.
But what is the exact process? First of all, it is important to note that this technique is used as an alternative form of the famous brainstorming, this specific one being the actual opposite: write first, speak after. There are 2 ways in which this process can evolve: the first one involves passing slips of paper between each other, reading others’ ideas and then inserting their own. When everyone in the group has had a chance to add an idea onto the paper, it is placed in the center of the table for all to see. The process is then repeated as many times as desired. The second method known also as Method 635, involves 6 participants that generate 3 ideas every 5 minutes.
Participants are encouraged to draw on others’ ideas for inspiration, thus stimulating the creative process.
Judging by the fact that each person is different and each person in a hypothetical focus group has an idea, each idea is likely to be different as well. Adding the quote that in life everyone you meet knows something you don’t, gives value to the fact that each participant has also a different background, set of rules and knowledge. This particular fact can also be seen as an advantage since an exchange of information process is sustained.
One of the advantages can be that it can be done when the members of the group are at different locations or taking breaks, letting their brains breathe and taking the time to get the needed inspiration to create an idea. Studies have shown that, for a given level of man-hours, electronic brainwriting groups can produce many more “high-quality ideas” than properly conducted brainstorming groups. Nevertheless, it is a known fact that extrovert people tend to throw the introverts into the shades and these neglected individuals are usually the ones capable of providing good ideas.
In addition to this, brainstorming is based on speed which can steal one’s time of gathering and expressing thoughts. Also, it may be the case where a group dynamic can arise dominance and jealousy, causing conflicts and in the end, destroying the creational process. Since in brainwriting all ideas and facts are afterwards recorded on sheet of paper and are as well anonymous, there is no competition and everybody has the time to pitch their idea. For instance, a group of 5 people can easily give birth to 100 ideas in a short period of time, without having to be interrupted or feel judged.
Although they can be overcome, there are some critiques brought to this technique. One of them is the fact that the written form of these ideas might seem problematic for some of the members who have trouble understanding the writing, the graphics, the sketches or even the core of the idea. This issue can be easily resolved, especially with us living in the ear of high technology, smartphones and social media, by using an electronic form of typing. Another drawback of brainwriting is considered to be the risk of two or more persons sharing the same idea that (maybe) could have been developed and innovated if spoken out loud.
As we all know, in every group there are few people who do 60-75% of the talking. With brainwriting, everyone gets their fair share of the cake.