How to use a 6-3-5 Brainwrite to add structure to your ideation process
Many people and companies believe “brainstorming” is when a group of people get into a room and take turns talking or debating about their ideas. In my experience this is a waste of time. It’s very ineffective and can even contribute confusion to a project when members of the team leave the meeting wondering what the takeaways were, and if their ideas were even considered by the group.
A better way to brainstorm is with a 6-3-5 Brainwrite method. I’ve used this many times for rapid idea generation, to generate feature backlogs, and to even name things. With 6 people, and 3 ideas per 5-minute round, you generate 90 ideas in 30 minutes.
I typically adjust each of the parameters. Sometimes we have less people in the brainstorm, but I always keep it below 6 cross-functional members that typically consist of at least a UX Designer, Software Engineer, Product Manager, Community Manager, and someone who is not attached to the project at all, no matter what their role. I’ve been known to limit the rounds to 3 minutes, because 5 minutes has usually been too long for our team members.
An session I lead recently looked like this:
- 6 people: Product Manager, Rendering Engineer, UX Designer, UX Designer, Product Marketer, Video Producer
- 3 ideas
- 3 minutes
- Totaling: 18 minutes, 90 ideas
After we spend time writing, I ask everyone what ideas stuck out at them, or any themes they noticed. I then synthesize the ideas, and either make them into a one pager of the idea with a drawing and description, or create a list of features. With this specific session, I voted on the ideas I thought needed to be priorities, and then handed it off to my product manager to vote as well. We then prioritized a list of features for a project phase.
Sometimes I even use sticky notes to be able to group them after the fact more easily.
This is my favorite ideation method: instead of people talking about ideas and battling to make themselves heard in the group, everyone has an equal turn to contribute on paper, and everyone is able to riff off of other team members ideas.
I highly recommend it!