Content marketing cannot exist without content, and content cannot exist without ideas.
But where do you get your ideas from?
Standard brainstorming sessions can be effective, but often get sidetracked or dominated by those who shout the loudest, and after debating each suggestion, you can often find yourself coming away with just a handful of workable ideas.
But what if there was a technique to help you come up with 108 ideas in just half an hour?
6-3-5 brainwriting is an ideation technique developed in 1968 by Bernd Rohrbach, a German marketer, to create a large number of ideas in a short space of time.
Here’s how to get started:
What you need:
A group of six people (this is the ideal number, but if you have fewer it will still work - more on this later)
A quiet room
A brief or problem to solve
A prepared worksheet or blank piece of paper for each participant
First of all, you need to ensure that everyone in your group understands the problem or brief, and that they are aware of your target audience. If not, ensure you spend a bit of time at the beginning making sure everyone has a clear understanding of your goals, otherwise you might find yourself with ideas that aren’t suitable.
Next, you need to get everyone sat in a circle with paper or worksheets. Each piece of paper should have the problem at the top of the page, and a 3 x 6 grid, labelled with Idea 1, Idea 2, Idea 3 along the top, and with the numbers 1-6 down the side.
Then, it’s time for ideas. The group are given five minutes to each write down three ideas onto their grid (in row 1). This needs to be done in silence with no discussion.
Once the five minutes are up, participants need to each pass their sheets to the person on their right. Then begins another five minutes, during which each participant is to list their three ideas in row 2, taking inspiration from the previous ideas on the sheet.
This continues for six rounds until each person gets their first sheet back. By this point, you should have 108 ideas.
While 108 ideas sounds great, it’s highly unlikely that each of these ideas will be useful or relevant, and you don’t want to progress with those that won’t work for your business or solve your problem.
We like to use the NUF criteria to grade our ideas, and rate each out of 30. NUF stands for New, Useful and Feasible, so we go through each idea and rate it out of ten on each of these factors. Depending on the number of ideas, we might decide to go forward with the top ten ideas, or perhaps all those that are rated over 20 out of 30.
Using NUF allows you to focus only on the strongest ideas and not waste time on those that might not work. However, the beauty of 6-3-5 brainwriting is that all ideas are documented, so what might not work now could work later.
Pros and cons
You don’t need to have six people. Six is the standard, but it’s not prescriptive as long as the number of rounds is equal to the number of participants - eg. three participants would need only three rounds
You don’t have to use marketers - in fact, it can be more useful to invite members of different teams into your session to encourage new ideas
It’s efficient - 108 ideas in half an hour is many more than you are likely to create in a standard brainstorming session
It’s non-verbal, which avoids the problem of the loudest drowning out the quietest
All ideas are documented for later
It’s an ideal method if you are pushed for time
It’s unlikely all 108 ideas will be useful and there’s a good chance there will be some duplicates
There's no time for ideas to be developed in the session due to the lack of discussion, meaning another meeting may be needed at a later date
Everyone in the group needs to be involved, so it takes some getting used to