Brainstorm Technique: Free Writing
Free writing is a time-tested technique for brainstorming unique and interesting ideas. The main difference between free writing and a lot of other brainstorm techniques, is that free writing doesn’t typically deliver a wide-ranging quantity of ideas. Instead, it delivers a great deal of quantity on ONE specific subject. As a result, free writing is a phenomenal brainstorming tool when you’ve already identified a specific subject and the purpose of your brainstorm is identifying how to bring it to life.
Ideal Activity For:
Idea generation, Idea refinement, Story development, Brand voice exploratory, Insight generation
Letter size sheets of paper & pens (enough for everyone in the meeting)
2-3 20” x 30” (or larger) easel pads / dry erase board
permanent markers / dry erase markers
# of Participants:
1 – 6
How To Brainstorm With Free Writing:
- Review the Brainstorm Bill of Rights
- Review the Brainstorm Prep Checklist and answer the appropriate questions
- Gather supplies and book a conference room (if needed)
Brainstorm Intro: (approx. time varies by experience level)
- Review Brainstorm Bill of Rights with participants
- Establish the goal of the brainstorm by discussing the BrainBrief™
- Kick-off the meeting with an Icebreaker (if needed)
Brainstorm Part 1: (approx. 5-10 minutes per free writing subject)
- Start with a simple question or thought that is related to the purpose of your brainstorm. For example, in a brainstorm about dog food, the question could be “Tell me about your earliest positive memory of a dog.”
- Set the oven timer to a pre-determined time limit.
- Invite brainstorm participants to write about their answer to your question. Here’s the catch. They can’t stop writing until the oven timer goes off. It doesn’t matter what they write, as long as they keep writing for the duration of the brainstorm session about the question they were asked.
Brainstorm Part 2: (approx. 5-10 minutes)
- Ask participants to pass their free writing assignment to their left (or the right, you decide) [NOTE: IF you’re utilizing this technique alone, take some time away from your free writing and come back to it with fresh eyes rather than passing your assignment to a partner.]
- Invite the new reader to take some time and digest the free writing assignment they’ve received. Their task is to underline any content they find unique or interesting AND to provide a one sentence summary of the entire story.
Brainstorm Part 3: (approx. 20-30 minutes)
- Each brainstorm participant reads out their summary to the group and identifies any copy points they found unique or interesting.
- Record the summary sentence and interesting points on an easel pad.
- As a group dissect and build on the content on the easel pad. Ask questions such as: Are there any insights here that can help us better our brainstorm topic? Is there a common theme that all the free writing assignments all share that we can apply to our brainstorm topic?
- Thank all the participants for their input
- Select concepts for further development (can be done alone or as part of the group)
- Be sure to capture all the notes and take them with you. It’s often easiest to take digital photos of the boards and notes for reference at a later date. Be sure to collect all the free writing assignments. [NOTE: It is important to collect these pages and review them on your own. As the brainstorm leader, you may be able to collect additional insights that were overlooked by some of the brainstorm participants.]
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