Brainwriting – a New Trend for Increased Innovation?

Topic: Creativity
Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (MAR 2009)
Article: Better than brainstorming? Potential contextual boundary conditions to brainwriting for idea generation in organizations.
Author: P. A. Heslin
Reviewed By: Sarah Teague

The generation of innovative ideas is essential to the success of modern organizations. In attempts to facilitate this idea generation, group brainstorming has become a fixture in many organizations today. The current article compiles a list of the potential limitations of brainstorming and describes why brainwriting may be more effective.

Brainstorming involves the oral sharing of ideas within a group. In such a setting, there are several factors that may prevent group members from sharing ideas. Some individuals may feel that their ideas are not good enough, or they may hold back to avoid upstaging their superiors. Additionally, the value of the process can be negatively impacted by those who contribute too much (monopolizing the conversation), as well as those who contribute too little due to a lack of accountability (social loafing).

Brainwriting refers to the sharing of ideas among group members in a written form. The author cites evidence that suggests that this method could promote accountability and potentially eliminate the social pressures involved in a face-to-face group setting, thereby improving  productivity. While the author strongly emphasizes the need for continued empirical research, this technique shows promise as a viable alternative to traditional brainstorming and builds on the adage that, “Two heads are better than one” – just not at the same time.

Heslin, P. A. (2009). Better than brainstorming? Potential contextual boundary conditions to brainwriting for idea generation in organizations. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82, 129-145.