“Brain writing” – brilliant! It also cuts down on meeting time. Brainstorming meetings can drag on and participants may vote on an idea, simply to get back to work and end the meeting. I’ve found it works better when we all have a few days to ponder solutions or tag lines or new directions, and then bring those ideas with us, or better yet, put them in a Google doc.

Fast Company: Because brainstorming favors the first ideas, it also breeds the least creative ideas, a phenomenon called conformity pressure. People hoping to look smart and productive will blurt out low-hanging fruit first. Everyone else then rallies around that idea both internally and externally. Unfortunately, that takes up time and energy, leaving a lot the best thinking undeveloped.

Brainstorming works best if before or at the beginning of the meeting, people write down their ideas. Then everyone comes together to share those ideas out loud in a systematic way. Thompson has her participants post all the ideas on a wall, without anyone’s name attached and then everyone votes on the best ones. “It should be a meritocracy of ideas,” she said. “It’s not a popularity contest.” Only after that do people talk.

n her studies, Thompson found that brainwriting groups generated 20% more ideas and 42% more original ideas as compared to traditional brainstorming groups, she writes in her book Creative Conspiracy. “I was shocked to find there’s not a single published study in which a face-to-face brainstorming group outperforms a brainwriting group,” she said. In Nordgren’s research he has found that the process leads to more diverse and candid ideas.

Discussion still has its merits, but should only take place after the group has generated a variety of distinct ideas with which to work. Raw ideas rarely work. It’s the permutation and combination of the outlandish and banal that lead to the best proposals. “Usually the best idea that is selected at the end isn’t exactly what anyone came up with at the beginning; the idea has been edited,” Nordgren added.

The best part of introverted thinking, however, is that it cuts down on what I’ll call the “loudmouth meeting-hog phenomenon.” You know the type: the person who, along with one or two other people, dominate the conversation. (Here Fast Company’s Baratunde Thurston acts out this very scenario with Behance Co-Founder Scott Belsky.) Thompson’s studies have found that in most meetings with traditional brainstorming, a few people do 60-75% of the talking. With brainwriting, everyone gets a chance.


2 thoughts on “Fast Company: An effective alternative to brainstorming… Try brainwriting!

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