Tools

Brainwriting

You can download a PDF version of this tool here: Brainwriting

Every now and then when your in an ideation or a brainstorming session, the idea flow can stall.  When this happens, it’s good to switch to a different technique to liven things up and jump-start the ideation again.  Brainwriting is a variation of ideation and brainstorming.

Brainwriting works great for when there’s either 1 person dominating the session or there are several quiet participants who haven’t really contributed to the session.  It allows people time to internalize their thinking and work through ideas without slowing the entire session down.  It builds off the ideas of others and can quickly snowball into very big, exicting ideas.  It’s a really great way to switch things up and encourage full participation while keeping the ideas coming.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Have participants tear a page out of their notebooks.
  2. Tell them to draw a line down the middle of the page vertically, then draw 3 more lines about the same distance apart horizontally.  Their paper should be divided into 8 sections.
  3. Reiterate the task for the ideation session.  Re-write it on a flipchart at the front of the room if you need to.
  4. Tell the particpants to think of 2 ideas and to write them down in the top 2 boxes of their sheet.
  5. Once the participants have their 2 ideas written down, have them exchange their sheet with another person who also has 2 ideas written down.
  6. Tell the participants to write 2 more ideas on the second line of their new sheet.  Encourage them to build off of the ideas that are on the sheet.  New ideas are welcome as well.
  7. Once the sheet the have has 4 ideas on it, have the participants to exchange sheets with someone other than the person they originally exchanged sheets with.
  8. Tell the participants to write 2 more ideas on the second line of their new sheet.
  9. Once the sheet the have has 4 ideas on it, have the participants to exchange sheets with someonethey haven’t exchanged sheets with yet.
  10. Tell the participants to write 2 more ideas on the second line of their new sheet.
  11. You should now have a full sheet with 8 new ideas.

Modifications
Depending upon the size of your group and the set up you have for your session, here are some modifications you may find helpful:

  • Have participants flip their sheet over and draw an identical grid on the back to continue brainwriting.  This is best used when there are a lot of participants or when more ideas are needed.
  • To accommodate more ideas, participant’s papers can be divided into 3 rows of 3, which gives a total of 9 squares.  This eliminates a round of trading but leads to more ideas.  This is best used in a smaller group.
  • Post-It Notes can be used on a sheet of paper instead of drawing a grid.  Participants can arrange 8 Post-It Notes in 4 rows of 2 on their paper.  This makes it easier to remove and reorganize the ideas.
  • Flip charts can also be used instead of paper if they are available.  Lines can be drawn or Post-It Notes can be used on the flip chart paper.  This is best used if there is a small group of people.

Optional Convergence Technique
Brainwriting can generate a lot of ideas very quickly.  Here is an optional convergence tool to begin to pare these ideas into a manageable few.

  1. Once participants have a full sheet of 8 ideas, have them switch sheets with the person next to them.  Ideally they will have a sheet they did not contribute an idea to, but it’s okay if this doesn’t happen.
  2. Have each participant select an their favorite idea from the sheet.
  3. Once they have selected their favorite idea, have the participants pair off and discuss the idea they selected.  Each pair must then select 1 idea from their 2 favorite ideas.
  4. Have each pair join with another pair.  Each pair shares discusses the idea they selected.  Each group of 4 must then select 1 idea from their 2 favorite ideas.
  5. Continue this until only a few or just 1 idea remains.

Kickoff Meeting Process

You can download a PDF of this process here: Kickoff Meeting Process

Kick-Off Meeting Process

Goal
Unite a team assigned to a project around the project objectives, goals and process to ensure everyone is moving forward in one unified direction.

Rationale
Often times, teams assigned to a project are not completely clear on what they want the project to accomplish and how they want to do it.  People assigned to project teams have sometimes never worked together before.  Everyone on the team has their own agenda in what they want to project to accomplish.  This process is designed to let everyone speak their minds on what they want to get out of the project and brings to light everyone’s objectives from their perspectives.  It creates a shared understanding by bringing everyone up to speed on what how the project came to be and what else has been done.  This way, the project team becomes more cohesive in moving toward their shared end result, which will ensure the success of the project.

Process

Introductions

Go around the room and ask everyone who they are, what they do, and why they’re here.

Goal

Let everyone get to know each other and what their role is in this project.

Why Are We Here?

Simply ask: “Why are we here today?”  This sometimes turns into a bitch session, because they’ve obviously identified a problem they’re trying to solve.  Changing this problem into an opportunity statement is huge, because it makes the problem actionable and, therefore, easier to solve.  Try to rephrase the problem into a “How to”, “I wish” or, “It would be great if” statement.  Let them bitch for a little if the bitching starts, and try to pull additional challenges out of what they’re saying.  You’ll probably get a lot, so focus on the large macro task.  It’s okay if it isn’t 100% concrete before moving on.  This could also go simply, like saying: “We need a new website.”

Goal

Bring the task of the project and the reason the project team was assembled into the light and everyone can hear.  Frame the task into something actionable.

How Did We Get Here?

Ask the project team what they’ve done in the past to help with this challenge.  Ask them how this started, and why it is a problem.  Ask who all is involved, and why it’s a challenge from their perspective.  A lot of these will probably pop up in the Why Are We Here? phase.

Goal

Create a shared, clear understanding the challenge.

What Do You Want To Have At The End?

Ask what they would like the end result of the project to be.  This could be basic, like, “We want a new website” or it could be complex, “we’re looking for ideas to fill our innovation pipeline for the next 3-5 years.”  Try to boil it down to something basic without adjectives, such as a website or an idea.

Goal

State what the end result/goal of the project is.

What Do We Want To Accomplish With It?

Ask what they want to accomplish with the end result of this project.  This will bring objectives of the project into the light.  These objectives will look to solve individual problems within the task.

Goal

Share objectives for the project to solve.

Ideas To Accomplish Theses Objectives Have To Be…

Say: ” We’re going to be coming up with ideas to try to solve the objective you outlined above. What are the requirements for these ideas?”  You’re looking to find criteria that will dictate what ideas are going to be accepted and what won’t.  Encourage adjectives and concrete goals.  “Fits with our brand” is a good example, as is “is engaging.”  Ask clarifying questions.  A “fresh website” could mean a lot of things.

Goal

Create criteria for judge judging potential ideas for that solve the problem.

Recap

State: So the goal we’re trying to accomplish is: to ________ that _____, _____ and _____.

Goal

Restate the task of the project while working in the objectives outlined above

How Do We Get There?

Describe the process you will go through to help get the client accomplish the task you laid out for them above.

Goal

Highlight the process and timeline for the project.

Adjourn


Brainwriting In A Bucket

You can download a PDF version of this tool here: Brainwriting In A Bucket

Brainwriting In A Bucket

Divergent Tool for Problem Finding/Idea Finding/Ideation/Brainstorming
Works Best In Small Groups (Breakout Groups)

Introduction
Even the most fruitful ideation sessions can hit a stall.  When this happens, a new brainstorming technique is needed to stimulate thinking and keep the ideas flowing.  This technique is a variation of the Brainwriting technique, and is to be used when ideas are beginning to slow in an ideation/brainstorming session.

Items Needed

  • 2 Buckets per group
  • Post It Notes
  • Pens/Markers
  • Flip chart

Process

  1. Break larger ground into groups of 4-10.
  2. Write the group’s task or problem at the top of the flip chart.
  3. Quietly begin brainstorming ideas for the group’s task or problem.  Each member of the group should write their ideas down on a Post-It Note.
  4. Once an idea is written down, it should be tossed into the first bucket.
  5. Each person should write down as many ideas as they can onto Post-It notes and toss them into the first bucket.  A good goal is about 10 ideas per person.  It’s okay to come up with less.
  6. Once the first round of ideas is complete or begins to slow down, switch to the second round.
  7. Each person should reach into the first bucket full of Post-It Notes and pull one out randomly.
  8. The person reads the idea and builds off of it.  A build could be an addition to the existing idea, an option for the existing idea, or a whole new idea that’s sparked from the first idea.  Write this below the original idea on the Post-It Note.
  9. The person then tosses the idea into the second bucket.
  10. Repeat steps 6-8 until there are no ideas left in the first bucket.
  11. Each Post-It Note should now have 2 ideas on it.
  12. As time permits, repeat steps 6-8 for the ideas in the second bucket. After this, each Post-It Note should have 3 ideas on it.
  13. Take the Post-It Notes from the buckets and place them on the flip chart in front of the group.
  14. Have one person read each Post-It Note out loud.
  15. Take any final builds people may have and write them on the Post-It Notes.

Optional Convergence Tool (feel free to use the tool you feel is the most effective)

  1. As a group, cluster similar ideas together.
  2. Vote for the ideas group members want to move forward with.  Each person should get enough votes to vote for 10% of the ideas, e.g. 50 ideas means each person gets 5 votes.
    • Each Post-It Note should be considered an idea.  An idea from within each Post-It Note can be voted on individually if the group agrees to separate that idea from the Post-It Note.  If this happens, write the idea on a separate Post-It Note.
  3. After voting is completed, discuss each idea that received at least 1 vote.
  4. As a group, select 3-5 ideas to move forward with based on the discussion.

Time/Impact Matrix

You can download a PDF of this tool here: Time/Impact Matrix

Time/Impact Matrix

Convergence Tool for Problem Finding

Introduction
In creative problem solving, after you find your objective and learn more about why you want to solve it, you generate a lot of problems that are hindering you from reaching your objective.  Your objective is your desired end-state; it’s how you ideally would want things to be.  Usually there’s more than just 1 problem blocking you from reaching this objective.  You brainstorm all these problems in the 3rd stage of creative problem solving, Problem Finding.  You need to pick only one of these problems to generate ideas to solve it in the next stage, Idea Finding.  This is a tool I created to show the problems that would have the most impact on getting you to your ideal end-goal.

Time

Impact 1

High Impact
Short Term

2

High Impact
Long Term

3

Low Impact
Short Term

4

Low Impact
Long Term

Process

  1. Brainstorm problem areas within your objective.  If you want to, write them on Post-it Notes.
  2. Once you have an amount you’re comfortable moving forward with, go back through your problem list and determine the potential impact and timeframe for solving each problem.
    • Impact – When this problem is solved, what kind of impact would it have on your objective?  Would a potential solution completely fulfill your objective?  Would it be a small step towards meeting your objective?
    • Term – When you have a solution to this problem, how long would it take to implement it?  Could a solution be implemented tomorrow?  Next week?  Next month?  Next year?  Next decade?
  3. According to your determinations, find where each problem would fall in the matrix above.  Place the number from the quadrant next to the problem.
  4. Cluster your problems together by number by rewriting them with the appropriate number at the top or moving all your Post-It notes with the same number together.  Title each cluster by quadrant number.
  5. Within each cluster, rank each problem by impact and timeframe against the other problems.  The problem you think will have the most impact should be ranked a 1; the second-most impact a 2 and so on until all the problems have been ranked.  Do the same for each problem for timeframe, starting with the shortest.
  6. Multiply the impact and timeframe rankings together for each problem.  This is the overall time/impact ranking for that problem.  Place or rewrite the problems according to their rankings starting with the lowest total number to the highest total number.
  7. You have now determined and grouped your ideas by their potential impact and timeframe.  Select a problem to move forward with into idea finding/ideation.  We recommend choosing a problem from Quadrant 1 or 2 with a low overall time/impact ranking.