Brain writing (6-3-5)
Focuses on sketching as a medium for creating concepts, with some limited use of key-words and short descriptions to augment the sketching. The overall process is similar to brainstorming, but rather than begin with an open discussion, the session starts with each individual writing down their thoughts first. Brainwriting is a general term, used to describe a number of similar methods, and the approach described here is also known as the 6-3-5 method (6 people, 3 ideas each, 5 times around the table). Like brainstorming, some simple rules should apply (see illustration).
A good size team for brainwriting is between 3 to 8 people - 6 is about right, hence the '6' in the name of the tool.
Define scope and purpose
As with brainstorming, the process will be more effective with a clear focus.
Each team member captures 3 ideas each
Each team members writes, describes or sketches 3 ideas each on a piece of paper. It is highly recommended that at this stage, the participants should be encouraged to sketch their ideas, an annotate the sketches with writing where appropriate. It may help the team members to focus on the top 5 elements of product functionality, as viewed as important by customers. This stage should last around 30 minutes (longer if people are still going strong, shorter if ideas have dried up) and in that time, a team of 6 people should have produced between 15 to 30 unique concepts.
Pass the concepts around the table - 1 round
Following the initial session, the concepts are passed to the right, to the next person around the table. Allow 10-15 minutes for each person to add to, modify and extend each of the ideas passed to them. Once they have done this, the sheets are passed on until all ideas have been seen and modified by all team members. This can take in total about 60 minutes. The focus of any modifications to ideas should be on advancing the idea, not criticising.
Repeat 5 times
It is recommended that they are passed around the table in total 5 times, to encourage combination of ideas, refinement and development of concepts. This can be laborious, and the rounds should be spaced out in time to prevent the team becoming stale. After a few rounds, it can be beneficial to use traditional brainstorming rules, to encourage some debate and discussion about the ideas, with a view to advancing the concepts more quickly and potentially eliminating the weakest ones.
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