Mind & Brain

Forget brainstorming, try brainwriting!

Given difficult business issues such as rapidly emerging technologies, shrinking budgets and growing global competition, generating creative solutions is imperative for organizations to survive and prosper.

However, the widely used process of brainstorming may not be nearly as effective as a technique called brainwriting, says Peter Heslin, an assistant professor of Management and Organization in SMU’s Cox School of Business.


“The most widely adopted process for generating creative ideas within organizations is brainstorming,” said Heslin, who won the 2006 C. Jackson Grayson Endowed Faculty Innovation Award for excellence and creativity in teaching.

“Despite its immense popularity, when groups of people interact for the purpose of brainstorming, they significantly over-estimate their productivity and produce fewer unique ideas than nominal groups of people generating ideas alone.”

“When the stakes are high, group process innovations that enable even modest increases in the quality of ideas available for consideration could be of immense practical value,” Heslin says in an upcoming paper for the “Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.”

Heslin says that a key challenge for managers and scholars is identifying how groups can be more productive in generating ideas.

In contrast to the oral sharing of ideas in groups during brainstorming, brainwriting involves a group of people silently writing and sharing their written ideas. Research has revealed that brainwriting yields superior idea generation than either non-sharing or nominal groups. Groups that contain people with diverse but overlapping knowledge and skills tend to be particularly creative, he says.

Related links:
Peter Heslin faculty page
Peter Heslin home page
Executive Summary: In need of new ideas? Try brainwriting
Cox School of Business