Brain Writing is used to collaborate on an idea or issue when sensitivities or conflict are anticipated; gather ideas and opinions in a non-threatening manner. The process is effective with a group of four to eight people who are focused on an issue or idea where wording is important. The group can be as large as 20 people if the intent is to gather ideas and opinions.
The estimated time to complete the process for four to eight people is 10 minutes. For a group up to 20 people, allow 20 minutes to write and 10 minutes to discuss. The only props needed are blank paper and writing utensils for each participant.The step-by-step process for Brain Writing is below:
1. Pose or frame the question, issue, or problem facing the group. Ask each person to write on the top of the paper:
- An answer (if a question is posed)
- A resolution (if an issue is presented)
- An idea (if a problem is confronted)
- Proposed wording (if a statement is being crafted, e.g. a mission)
2. Ask each person to pass their paper to the person on their left.
3. Each person should then comment on the paper in front of him or her by either writing a rewording of the suggestion below the original or commenting on his or her opinion of the suggestion. When complete, pass the paper on.
4. This should continue until the papers return to their originator.
5. Discuss the findings. Most often, consensus will have built around a small number of suggestions, narrowing the discussion field.
A variation on this process, once ideas have been generated, would be to post each one on a sheet of flip chart paper and post them around the room. Give people a marker and have them travel around the room commenting on as many items as desired, as many times. When the activity dies down, review each chart to determine if the comments lead to a common conclusion.
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