Brain writing for new product ideas

Creative problem solving immediately brings up the idea of brainstorming. This does indeed stimulate many ideas in a relatively short time, but it has its own shortcomings. For example, when group members are in conflict, the brainstorming process may be disrupted. Cultural or status differences between members may also disturb the group’s equilibrium. Moreover, face-to- face interactions in brainstorming might exert pressure, eventually bringing about group think.

To solve these problems, brainwriting was devised. Brainwriting is the silent, written version of brainstorming. Below are six brainwriting techniques: nominal group technique (NGT), a collective notebook (CNB), a brainwriting pool, pin cards, Battelle-bildmappen- brainwriting (BBB), and the SIL method. Four of the techniques are totally brainwriting, the other two are hybrids of brainstorming and brainwriting.

Nominal group technique (NGT) is developed to assist in program-planning decisions. The technique is first operated silently to gather ideas; then members need to clarify their ideas in speech.

Collective notebook (CNB) was proposed by the Procter and Gamble Company. This technique involves collecting ideas from a large number of individuals in an organization. The selected individuals should write down their ideas every day. At the end of the month, the project coordinator then collects all the ideas and reorganizes them, finally developing a summary of the results. The participants don’t see each other’s ideas.

The brainwriting pool technique was born at the Battelle Institute in Frankfurt. This technique presents sharing ideas as a basic process of gathering ideas. Pin cards also originated from the Battelle Institute. The procedure for pin cards is similar to that of a brainwriting pool, except that written ideas are passed around the group instead of being drawn from a central pool.

Battelle-bildmappen- brainwriting (BBB) also developed at the Battelle Institute. It mixes brainwriting with brainstorming.

The SIL method refers to the successive integration of problem elements (as in German). The technique developed both from brainwriting and brainstorming. To begin with the group members all read the problem statement and silently write their own ideas about the problem. Then two of them each read aloud one of their ideas, and the rest of the group members have to combine the two ideas into one in speech. Next, the third group member reads his idea and the remaining members integrate this idea with the previous one. The procedure is repeated until an integrated solution is agreed by all members.

To identify what technique should be applied in different circumstances, the author made a chart based on the following five attributes: originality of the idea, time/money costs, potential for conflict, potential to satisfy social needs, and need for leadership skills. Most of the techniques can solve the problem of interpersonal conflicts that brainstorming sometimes triggers, due to its procedure for generating ideas. However, there are two exceptions: BBB and the SIL method. Since they have brainstorming components, they can admit conflicts if not carefully monitored.

In any case, most brainwriting techniques demand fewer leadership skills than brainstorming requires, except for NGT and BBB.

After reading this article, we want to know your opinion. Please share your responses with your fellow students in the comments!


De Bono, E. (1995). Serious creativity. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 18(5), 12.

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This article is from the free online course:

Using Creative Problem Solving

National Chiao Tung University