Brainstorming is a very powerful method of generating lots of ideas very quickly on almost any problem or issue that needs an innovative or creative solution. However, brainstorming is also a very fragile process. It is intended to be a very free flowing non-judgmental exchange and list builder that sparks everyone’s creative fires, but sometimes that is very difficult to achieve in an organized public gathering.
There are many distractions in most meeting situations. What another person says most of the time channels the thinking of others rather than opening it up. There are almost always dominant and passive personalities in any meeting situation. People who are normally afraid to speak in a meeting often tune out completely during a brainstorming session. Only one person at a time can speak effectively in a group meeting and, unfortunately, that prevents other people from speaking. The larger the group, the greater the blocking problem. Of course, there is always someone in the group who will do and say whatever it takes to please the boss. Once that person speaks, others will have a hard time doing more than agreeing. We tend to think that groups are more effective than each individual, but the power of peer pressure and conformity is often contrary to the brainstorming process. We may have a warm group feeling about the social exchange that takes place during a public brainstorming meeting, but the reality is that it usually stifles creativity.
To help overcome these problems, a better brainstorming method called idea writing was created. As the name implies, write down your ideas instead of expressing them. Extensive research and testing has shown that idea writing generates 40 percent more creative ideas compared to traditional brainstorming. That is a huge increase.
The way it works is before the meeting starts, blank forms are made that have the definition of the problem written across the top and a table below to list the ideas. You need at least one sheet of this form for each person who attends the meeting. There are many different ways to create a form that makes sense for the problem you are facing, but one common procedure is called 6-3-5 Brain Typing.
The 6-3-5 represents for 6 people, 3 ideas per person in 5 minutes. The form table is 3 columns wide with enough width to write the ideas. Number the columns idea 1, idea 2, and idea 3. Make the table 6 rows on the page for the 6 different people. When the meeting begins, divide people into groups of 6. Each person takes a sheet of paper and takes 5 minutes to write 3 ideas on the first row of the form to help solve the problem statement. Don’t put your name on the sheet. Then you exchange your sheet with another person. Give your sheet to the person on your right, or place the six sheets in a pile in the middle of the table and take one at random from the pile. Then take the next 5 minutes to add 3 more ideas to the next row on the new sheet. You can use the ideas already on the sheet to stimulate new ideas or create new ideas of your own, whichever works best for you. After doing this for 30 minutes, you will have a total of 108 ideas from each group of 6 people.