Think About It: Why You Should Consider Brainwriting Meetings

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Think About It: Why You Should Consider Brainwriting Meetings

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In every creative department there’s always one or two people who thrive in a brainstorm. They’re the first to show up to these meetings with their pour-over coffee that’s managed to last all the way from Williamsburg (yeah, everybody knows it’s cold by now) and notebooks filled to the brim with ideas.

They’re also likely the most vocal throughout these meetings. Often, because they tend to drive up the energy levels in the room with their excitement, we don’t notice that it’s only ever their ideas in the spotlight.

It’s due to people like this that it could take a while for us to realize that traditional brainstorming doesn’t actually work as wonderfully as these Don Draper wannabes will have us believe.

Frequently, you’ll find that the extroverts in the group will dominate the initial discussion, presenting their ideas first and foremost, which puts their thoughts upfront.

This likely leads to anchoring bias, which is when people rely too heavily on one piece of information or allow this information to lead the discussion and ultimately, form an opinion based on this information.

In this case, the initial ideas presented in a brainstorm will carry more weight throughout the meeting than anything else that could potentially come up later.

But what alternative do we have if we no longer employ traditional brainstorming methods in these creative sessions? There’s no way an email chain could replace having decision-makers and creative thinkers in the same room. So, what do we do?

Enter brainwriting. It’s simple, allows everyone to have a voice, and still encourages all the right people to meet in one place, whether it’s in the conference room at the office, or in a temporary office space in NYC you’ve booked for the session.

What is brainwriting?

Well, although it’s recently been gaining more traction, brainwriting as a concept isn’t exactly new. The idea was initially pitched by Bernd Rohrbach in a German magazine in 1969.

Originally, brainwriting (or 6-3-5 brainwriting as it was first developed) involved putting six people in a room together, giving them five minutes to write down three ideas each and then passing them to the person next to them. Ultimately, it was about coming up with the greatest number of ideas in the shortest period of time.

But brainwriting, as with most methodologies used in businesses today, has been adapted along the way and is often used in various ways to bring out the best ideas or solutions in one room. And it works for a variety of purposes.

If you’re looking for an innovative way to bring in new clients, it works. Or if you’re working on launching a new product and want to come up with a killer campaign, it works for that too.

It’s about letting voices be heard and not egos

While brainwriting is about getting everyone to write down their ideas rather than voice them, it’s actually also about ensuring that everyone in the room gets heard. In traditional brainstorms, you’ll frequently find that some voices are louder than others, while some end up keeping quiet completely and only speak up to validate the ideas of others.

There have been many arguments over whether creative people are naturally extroverted or introverted, but ultimately, you’ll find a mixture of both extroverts and introverts in every creative department. It’s all about where people get their energy, rather than about people being too shy to speak up in a room.

You get anxious extroverts and confident introverts. But in every meeting of this kind, you’ll have a few people who are more shy about speaking their minds than the others. This could be because they’re a junior designer or a client service intern. These people have ideas and solutions that could benefit your business.

By encouraging everyone in the room to write down their ideas at the same time instead of asking for a show of hands and letting the loudest voice be heard first, you may find some gems that would otherwise be hidden due to shyness or professional insecurity.

Once everyone has written down their ideas, ask that they don’t add their names to the top. This takes the ego out of the equation. You’ve made a point of having this meeting at a neutral venue, so insist that people’s titles and experience aren’t put on show here.

Take in the written submissions and either stick them up on the wall for everyone to read or have a designated person read through the ideas. People can then give their honest feedback to each idea without being worried about who said it. Let’s be honest, no copywriting intern is going to point out a problem with a Creative Director’s idea… unless there’s no name attached.

Brainwriting gives you more options and more honest feedback

With everyone in the room being given the same platform to share their ideas without the fear of being laughed at, you’ll have more ideas than you would in a traditional brainstorm. And with no names attached to those ideas, people will more likely point out any holes in an idea or problems with a solution. It forces people to lose their egos and put their thinking caps on.

So, give brainwriting a try. You’ll most likely find you leave the meeting venue with more than you thought you would. Nobody will be left walking into the office the next day wishing they’d had the courage to voice their ideas. And those whose ideas didn’t make it to the top won’t be sitting with bruised egos.

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Think About It: Why You Should Consider Brainwriting Meetings

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