Ever spend a fruitless session brainstorming for work or school?

Personally, I think brainstorming can be at turns intimidating (if you aren’t comfortable expressing yourself within the group), overwhelming (too many ideas, not enough direction), hijacked (by a loud talker or an argument), lame (no one is enthusiastic or courageous enough to give real ideas) and of course, productive (that rare experience where things and people actually gel).

With so many group projects on my plate this year, and professors’ warnings ringing in my ears: “Group projects prepare you for the working world where you have to work with others all the time” I took note of an article in the latest Pyschology Today magazine.

It explained a technique termed “brainwriting”*, wherein 4 steps are used to free creative thinking and eliminate the need for a facilitator or waiting one’s turn to speak (which can lead to over thinking your ideas and decided they probably aren’t that great/sane/viable).

1. everyone simultaneously writes an idea on the paper with a unique coloured pen and passes the paper to the right. (by using a different colour for each person, in the end everyone is accountable for their ideas)

2. Once you receive a paper from your left, read the ideas and add your own idea, feeding of the first ideas if you want. If you have nothing to add, pass it along.

3. After 5 ideas are on a paper, retire it to the middle of the table. Systematically consider each idea when the papers are all full.

4. Everyone lists their favorite ideas and the most popular are noted/followed up on.

I think I’ll try this next time I’m in a group meeting!

Happy Projects!

*The author of the study on this technique is Peter Heslin of Southern Methodist University.


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