How To Rapidly Brainstorm and Share Ideas with Method 635

So, if you have a bunch of smart people, a bunch of bright ideas, and everybody wants to talk at the same time … what do you do?

Or, you have a bunch of smart people, but they are quiet and nobody is sharing their bright ideas, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil … what do you do?

Whenever you get a bunch of smart people together to change the world it helps to have some proven practices for better results.

One of the techniques a colleague shared with me recently is Method 635.  It stands for six participants, three ideas, and five rounds of supplements. 

He’s used Method 635 successfully to get a large room of smart people to brainstorm ideas and put their top three ideas forward.

Here’s how he uses Method 635 in practice.

  1. Split the group into 6 people per table (6 people per team or table).
  2. Explain the issue or challenge to the group, so that everybody understands it. Each group of 6 writes down 3 solutions to the problem (5 minutes).
  3. Go five rounds (5 minutes per round).  During each round, pass the ideas to the participant’s neighbor (one of the other participants).  The participant’s neighbor will add three additional ideas or modify three of the existing ones.
  4. At the end of the five rounds, each team votes on their top three ideas (5 minutes.)  For example, you can use “impact” and “ability to execute” as criteria for voting (after all, who cares about good ideas that can’t be done, and who cares about low-value ideas that can easily be executed.)
  5. Each team presents their top three ideas to the group.  You could then vote again, by a show of hands, on the top three ideas across the teams of six.

The outcome is that each person will see the original three solutions and contribute to the overall set of ideas.

By using this method, if each of the 5 rounds is 5 minutes, and if you take 10 minutes to start by explaining the issue, and you give teams 5 minutes to write down their initial set of 3 ideas, and then another 5 minutes at the end to vote, and another 5 minutes to present, you’ve accomplished a lot within an hour.   Voices were heard.  Smart people contributed their ideas and got their fingerprints on the solutions.  And you’ve driven to consensus by first elaborating on ideas, while at the same time, driving to convergence and allowing refinement along the way.

Not bad.

All in a good day’s work, and another great example of how structuring an activity, even loosely structuring an activity, can help people bring out their best.

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Comments (2)

  1. kramii says:

    This sounds like a great technique, but I didn't quite get it.

    "During each round, pass the ideas to the participant's neighbor the other participants."

    Could you clarify this, please?

  2. J.D. Meier says:

    @ kramii — Let's use an example.  If Bob has the sheet of ideas, he passes to Mary on his right.  Mary reviews the sheet of ideas, and she can add up to three additional ideas, or can modify up to three of the existing ideas.  Mary has five minutes to make changes.  At the end of that round, Mary will pass the sheet of ideas to Tom on her right.  Tom will then have 5 minutes to add/modify ideas.

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