Doing brainstorming better

post by eirine · 2018-11-09T14:38:29.642Z · EA · GW · 3 comments

Starting on a new project can be daunting, and it’s often difficult to know where to start. To tackle this, we in EA Norway use brainwriting. It’s a great method to generate a lot of ideas quickly.

You start by brainstorming a topic for 2-3 minutes, trying to write as many ideas as possible down on paper. Anything is allowed! If you’re working in a group, you pass your paper to the person on your left. Pause. Then for another 2-3 minutes you build on the ideas that are already on the paper, or add new ones. You continue doing this until you’re out of good ideas, or when the papers have circled a full round.

Afterwards you refine your ideas, prioritise and write down to-dos. Through this method, you (and your team) can generate a lot of ideas, and make the start of a project less intimidating. Whenever you’re stuck, brainwrite!


You can read more about why brainwriting is superior to regular brainstorming in Linsey & Becker's (2010) study on design creativity.


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comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2018-11-09T19:21:18.125Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

You should call this brain-hurricaning.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2018-11-09T23:02:50.733Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

What are some examples of cases where ideas generated in this way later become successful projects? And do you have reason to believe that another process wouldn't have generated those ideas? (For example, an idea that seemed silly to the original author but was built on by others to become something much better.)

I'd guess that other EA groups thinking of trying brainwriting would benefit from a list of questions for which you've used the technique, so that it's easier to tell when it might be useful to them.

comment by eirine · 2018-11-14T09:23:06.078Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for this suggestion! I think there are three main benefits of brainwriting: to generate ideas in a very short amount of time, to build on others' ideas, and to have someplace to start when working on a project.

We've used it for getting ideas on articles we'd like to write and topics we'd like to discuss. We also use it before a meeting with someone if we're a bit unsure about what we'd like the meeting to be about. Recently, we have decided on which indicators we are going to use to measure to what extent we are reaching our goals. We then used brainwriting to come up with ideas of different indicators, and built on those. Further, through brainwriting we tried to find alternatives to hosting a large conference that would give us the same outcomes.

We more or less use it whenever we are stuck on a project, when we need ideas, or when we're unsure exactly what our thoughts are on something. I unfortunately don't have a specific example of a project that was generated through this way, but hope this clarification and additional information has been useful :)