Use 'Brainwriting' Instead Of Brainstorming To Generate Ideas


Brainstorming out loud is often the go-to for coming up with new ideas, but your group might be better off writing their ideas down before someone shares anything out loud and gets everyone heading in the same direction.

Photo by George Redgrave

Rebecca Greenfield at Fast Company spoke with Leigh Thompson and Loran Nordgren, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, about the effects brainstorming has on our minds. Thompson explains:

...with people popping like champagne with ideas, what actually happens is when one person is talking you're not thinking of your own ideas.

The process, known as anchoring, favours the first ideas and forces the unique and creative ideas away through a phenomenon called conformity pressure. Nordgren goes into detail about anchoring:

Early ideas tend to have disproportionate influence over the rest of the conversation. They establish the kinds of norms, or cement the idea of what are appropriate examples or potential solutions for the problem.

Essentially, someone blurts out an idea and then everyone else follows suit, whether it's the best idea or not. So how can this be avoided? Thompson and Nordgren suggest a process called "brainwriting". The idea is simple: write ideas down, then talk about them later.

This allows idea generation to occur without influence of others. It's OK if some of your ideas seem obvious too. The goal is quantity of solid, unique ideas over quality mediocre ones. Next time your group comes across a problem, separate and brainwrite. Then come together to discuss your ideas.

Brainstorming Doesn't Work; Try This Technique Instead [Fast Company]


    This is because you basically end up brainstorming by committee if you do it out loud. I highly recommend checking out Google's Design Sprints for Developers - has a lot of great advice for maximizing group meetings etc.

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