A series of ten articles transferred from Dr. Huhn’s earlier blog posts

Some Fundamentals of the Creative Process and the Transfers into Real Life Innovations

Sixth article:

Phase II of the creative process (continued):

Methods and techniques

Now the two methods that have become established in my practice over the years. For the work in a group, it is the 6 - 3 - 5 method, for the individual work the Mind Mapping.

Both techniques can be used at any time without much effort, and the material costs are manageable with a few sheets of DIN A 3 paper.

The method 6 - 3 - 5

For work in groups, a written form of brainstorming has prevailed, which avoids the problem described above that assertive convergent thinkers articulate too much and have a disruptive effect. In contrast to oral brainstorming, no moderator is needed. It is sufficient if one person in the group is responsible for the methodical implementation and is familiar with the method.

The name of the method is derived from the fact that 6 people enter 3 ideas next to each other in a given grid on the DIN A 3 sheet and each have 5 minutes to do so. Then the sheet is passed on to the neighbor.

You can also use the method with 7, 5 or 4 persons (in these cases you would have to adapt the grid to the size of the group yourself), smaller or larger group sizes don’t deliver useful results. For larger groups (8 persons or more) several groups work in parallel.

Even with the method 6 - 3 - 5 you cannot do without Phase I! Depending on the degree of complexity and familiarity of the participants with the initial situation and the desired result, a period from 1 hour to one and a half days is required.

But then the actual session is extremely short. Pure mathematics leads to a total of 30 minutes for 6 people, each with 5 minutes of leeway for writing down the ideas, with a total output of around 100 ideas. About 80 % of these are entirely unusable (!), and the rest almost certainly result in 2 - 5 excellent new ideas or possible solutions (!!!).

Once the analysis phase has been completed, a written definition of the task or solution must be available, that is clearly understandable for all participants.

Example by Hendrik Backerra:

»What additional service can we offer our customers as a furniture forwarding company?«

The participants sit around a table, and everyone has the DIN A 3 sheet with the grid in front of them. The grid consists of 3 columns with 6 lines (or 7, 5 or 4 lines depending on the number of participants).

In addition, there is a header line in which the task is entered. The participants of the session can also be entered here (optionally). 

A person is selected for the time management of the process. This person can give a sign acoustically all 5 minutes. Everyone is asked - and that is extremely important!!!! - to write legibly, so that the results can be read by all.

6-3-5 Bild.png

With the first acoustic signal, the process is started, and everyone has 5 minutes to enter 3 solution suggestions next to each other into his grid.

After 5 minutes, the next signal sounds, and the paper is passed to the right. From the left, everyone gets a sheet of paper with three ideas from the neighbor to the left. These are read through, and then three ideas are entered again in the second line. These can be ideas of their own still, but they can also be modifications, variants, or additions to the ideas already above them. Again 5 minutes are available.

(If someone can't think of anything, he makes a horizontal bar. Since this becomes embarrassing in the long run, if one forwards loud lines to his neighbor, the pressure increases to write down »any« ideas. Especially since the available time from line to line becomes smaller and smaller, since the participant first reads what is already on the sheet. At some point, logic is abandoned and paradoxes, the «crazy« and the absurd break new ground. With this method, quantity does not depend on quality. It's enough if one of the 100 ideas really stands out from the rest.)

It can sometimes turn out in the process that in particularly tricky situations or with more detailed descriptions of ideas on the grid, the 5 minutes are not sufficient. The time structurer should then extend the default to 6 or 7 minutes from the 4th or 5th line onwards. The time keeper can keep an eye on the writing behavior of the others in addition to his own idea production. However, please understand this hint only as an exception. The general pressure should be maintained. The whole thing must be playful and must not degenerate into stress for the reasons mentioned!

After 6 rounds of 5 minutes each, the sheets are fully written. Because of some empty fields, there are usually not the 108 possible ideas but usually about 100. These now can be evaluated.

It is best to make a pause between the active part and the evaluation so that everybody has some distance from its own ideas and is not so eager to fight for it.

Then the sheets are handed around again in a circle. Everyone reads through all the ideas and marks the ideas with a simple classification. For example (-) for »unusable«, (!) for »possibly usable after further modification«, (+) for »looks very usable«.

Then the individual ideas can be cut apart and sorted according to their classification into three fields on the table. Those that are considered unusable are thrown away, while the other two groups, which have now become very clear (usually no more than 15 - 20 ideas), are dealt with further by the group, and a decision is made on how to proceed.

Alternative Evaluation

You can also just clip the sheets into the single ideas and let the group decide by acclamation at which of the three staples (–), (!), (+) each idea is to put on.

In case you found more than one solution you have to make a decision which of the ideas should be realized.

Following the seven steps of the decision process may help you:

The decision process

Phase II of the creative process (continued):

Method »Mind Mapping«

Phase III of the creative process

The solution, the idea is born