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Unlocking Group Creativity: The 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method

Innovation and problem-solving are at the heart of any successful endeavor, whether in business, education, or personal development. Harnessing a group's collective creativity can be a challenge, but there is a structured approach that can streamline the process: the 6-3-5 Brainwriting method. Let's dive into the what, why, when, and how of this collaborative brainstorming methode.

What is the 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method?

The 6-3-5 Brainwriting method is a silent idea-generation technique that encourages participants to draw on the thoughts and ideas of others to create new concepts. It's called 6-3-5 because it typically involves 6 participants, who each write down 3 ideas on a specific problem or question within 5 minutes. These ideas are then passed on to the next person, who uses them as a stimulus to generate new ideas. This process is repeated until a multitude of ideas are generated. 

Why Use the 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method?

The 6-3-5 method is used to democratize the idea generation process, ensuring every participant has an equal voice, free from the pressure of group dynamics or louder voices in the room. It's particularly effective because it:

  • Minimizes dominant personalities overpowering the session
  • Encourages introverted team members to share ideas without the pressure of speaking out loud
  • Builds upon a diverse set of ideas, enhancing creativity
  • Creates a tangible record of ideas for future reference


When to Use the 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method?

This method is ideal for use in situations where you need to generate a large number of ideas or solutions quickly. It's particularly useful:

  • When you're faced with a complex problem that requires creative thinking
  • In the early stages of project planning or product development
  • When your team is stuck in a creative rut
  • To avoid groupthink and encourage independent thought


How to Use the 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on implementing the 6-3-5 Brainwriting method in an onsite session. 

  • Assemble a group of 6 participants and provide each with a worksheet.
  • Pose a clear question or problem statement to the group.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Each participant writes down 3 ideas on their worksheet.
  • When the timer ends, each participant passes their worksheet to the person on their right.
  • The next participant reads the ideas and adds 3 new ones, inspired by what they've read.
  • Repeat the process until all participants have added ideas to each worksheet.
  • Review and categorize the ideas for further discussion or development.


How to Use the 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method in a remote or hybrid setting?

Using the 6-3-5 Brainwriting technique with an online whiteboard can be an effective way to engage remote teams in brainstorming sessions. Here's how you can implement this method in a virtual environment:

Setting Up the Virtual Brainwriting Session

  1. Choose an Online Whiteboard Tool: Select an online whiteboard platform that allows multiple users to collaborate in real-time.

  2. Prepare the Whiteboard: Before the session, create a grid on the whiteboard with enough space for each participant to write down their ideas. You should have 6 rows (one for each participant) and several columns for the rounds of idea exchange. Often you find pre-prepared templates for your 6-3-5 brainwriting session.

  3. Distribute Access: Ensure all participants have access to the online whiteboard and understand how to use the tool. Send out clear instructions and access links prior to the session.

  4. Brainstorming Instructions: At the top of the whiteboard, clearly state the problem or question to be brainstormed so that it's visible to all participants throughout the session.

Conducting the Session

  1. Briefing: Start with a video call to brief the participants on the topic and the method. Make sure everyone understands the process and the time constraints.

  2. Start the Brainstorming Session and write ideas: Once the brainstorming starts, each participant writes their three ideas in their designated row on the whiteboard within the 5-minute time frame. They can use sticky notes or the text tool provided by the whiteboard platform.

  3. Idea Exchange: After the first 5 minutes, instruct participants to move to the row below theirs to view and build upon the ideas listed by the previous participant. If they are in the last row, they move to the first.

  4. Repeat Rounds: Continue the process for a predetermined number of rounds, or until every participant has contributed to each other's lists.

  5. Review and Discussion: After the final round, come back to the video call to discuss the ideas generated. You can group similar ideas, prioritize them, or vote on them as a team.

Tips for a Smooth Online 6-3-5 Brainwriting Session

  • Timer: Use a shared online timer that is visible to all participants to keep track of the 5-minute intervals.
  • Facilitator: Assign a facilitator to guide the process, answer questions, and keep time.
  • Follow-Up: After the session, compile the ideas into a document and share them with all participants for further reflection or action steps.
  • Voting feature: For idea prioritization, use the voting feature to gather feedback from the participants quickly.
  • Technical Check: Before starting the session, conduct a technical check to ensure everyone's connectivity and familiarity with the tools.

By following these steps, you can effectively adapt the 6-3-5 Brainwriting technique for online collaboration, making it an inclusive and productive experience for remote teams.


6-3-5 Brainwriting Templates

To facilitate the 6-3-5 Brainwriting session, it's essential to have a structured template. A typical template includes space for the problem statement at the top and six sections for each participant to record their ideas. Each section has space for three ideas, and there's a section for final remarks or combinations of ideas. Collaboard provides you with the following brainwriting template:

6-3-5 Brainwriting Template


Frequently Asked Questions About the 6-3-5 Method

Can the 6-3-5 method be done with more or fewer than six people?

Yes, while the method is designed for six, it can be adapted for different group sizes. Just maintain the essence of the technique - writing ideas and passing them on.

What if someone can't come up with three ideas?

It's okay to pass on the sheet with fewer ideas. The goal is to inspire creativity, not to enforce a strict rule.

How do you ensure the quality of ideas?

Initially, focus on quantity. The refinement for quality comes later as ideas are reviewed and developed further.


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