Brain-writing illustration

Lead paragraph

Brainwriting is used by designers as a way to stimulate creativity. It is a tool that is suitable for large groups and/or groups that do not necessarily have to meet before.

PREPARATION: up to 15 minutes
DURATION: 60 minutes
TEMPLATE OR GUIDELINES: Use the Brain-writing template
FACILITATORS: 1 per workshop
RESOURCES: Pens, Post-its, a large sheet of paper or whiteboard
PARTICIPANTS: Up to 6 per group, design team, partners, community members

This group idea generation tool gives 106 ideas in 30 minutes when successful. The tool is based on passing idea lists to the next person who uses them as a trigger for their own ideas.


State the selected “How Might We” statement or a sub-focus area of it.

Based on your HMW statement or the focus of what you are interested in, define the criteria and select suitable groups of six participants. Aim for diversity among participants. Then, decide what are the central themes to start generating ideas.

Organize a meeting with the selected participants, and gather the necessary resources and supplies. Print enough Brain-writing templates in A3 or bigger. Think about what expectations will be set up-front, how you will start and end the workshop, and how much time participants are expected to dedicate to this activity.

Distribute the Brain-writing template, which contains a table of four columns and 6 rows.

1. Everyone writes the design challenge statement at the top of their worksheet (word for word from an agreed challenge, problem/opportunity).

2. Participants then write 3 ideas on the top row of the worksheet in 5 minutes in a complete and concise sentence (6-10 words).

3. At the end of 5 minutes (or when everyone has finished writing) pass the worksheet to the person on your right. You then add three more ideas.

4. The process continues until the worksheet is completed.

There will now be a total of 108 ideas on the 6 worksheets. These can now be organized and assessed. Write up your key outcomes from this exercise. Make a short summary that includes your key findings.

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