Brainstorm by Garrett Knoll from The Noun Project

Brainstorm by Garrett Knoll from The Noun Project

There are two leading problems with the average brainstorming session, as researchers at the Kellogg School of Management explain :

  1. In a typical six- or eight-person group, three people do 70 percent of the talking.
  2. Early ideas tend to have disproportionate influence over the rest of the conversation. 

One of the researchers (as well as author of Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaboration), Professor Leigh Thompson, remarks that the dominant people don’t realize that they’re doing most of the talking. “In fact,” she says, “they vehemently argue that meetings are egalitarian.” 

The solution to these lop-sided meetings is brainwriting, instead of brainstorming. Thompson describes brainwriting as “the simultaneous written generation of ideas.” She breaks it down the process as such:

Step 1: Write just one sentence each. For the first five or 10 minutes of your next idea-generation meeting, every team member writes down one good idea or one proposed solution on, say, each of a small stack of index cards.

Step 2: Consider the idea, not the source. When the timer goes off, all cards are submitted anonymously and taped or thumbtacked to a wall for the whole team’s consideration.

Step 3: Put it to a blind vote. Team members signal their interest in an idea by marking it with a sticker or a Post-it note. Everyone gets a limited number of stickers and, if done right, the best ideas emerge quickly.


  • Debbie

    Great idea for introverts who typically are not among the 3% mentioned above. This provides them time to reflect before participating in the meeting topic(s)

    • Jocelyn Aucoin

      …which benefits everyone.

  • Juraj Holub

    Excellent idea Hamza! I was just wondering why not to do this digitally and include all the present participants. At, we let people anonymously send their ideas via a simple mobile app, which are then instantly displayed on the wall. Anonymity encourages everyone to participate no matter what their speaking skills are. As a result, this can have an immense impact of the efficiency and output of the idea-generating session.

    Thanks for sharing the tips, Hamza!


  • Creative Heroes

    This is one of the reasons we designed – simultaneous brain storming tool (works with big crowds too). And it’s free.

  • Charles Messinger

    Super Helpful, thanks!

  • Tom LaForce

    The best part of this article is that the dominant ones are clueless about their dominance. So who’s going to help them see the situation more clearly?

    • Jocelyn Aucoin

      My question, exactly.

  • Terri

    People know each other’s handwriting around the office. For this to really work, people need to not be able to identify who wrote which idea.

  • Tony McCaffrey

    BrainSwarming is silent like brainwriting, but uses a structured graph to organize the contributions. Harvard Business Review produced a 3-minute video on BrainSwarming:

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