Brainwriting 6-3-5 as an alternative to established brainstorming

Brainwriting 6-3-5 alters classic brainstorming in ways that encourage equal participation from all team members by having them write their ideas rather than say them. The technique is described in David Silverstein, Philip Samuel, and Neil DeCarlo, The Innovator’s Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth (Wiley 2009) at 101. The name of the technique comes from its essential idea: six people each write down three ideas in five minutes and keep going. A focus group in a law department would do well with this tool with a slightly larger or smaller number of people.

Let’s try as an example the problem of how to speed up payment of invoices to qualify for a prompt payment discount. Each person in a group of six (more or less) takes five minutes to write on a worksheet three ideas for how to solve that problem. The facilitator then passes the worksheets randomly to the next person who can either add three new ideas, build on any of the ideas listed, or do both. Repeat that cycle until every participant has worked on every worksheet, which could generate as many as 108 ideas (6 people times 6 worksheets times 3 ideas).

The final step as a group is to discuss, clarify, refine, and combine similar ideas, then select those you wish to pursue further (See my post of Dec. 31, 2008: brainstorming with 5 references.).

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