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How To Organize A 3-12-3 Brainstorming Session

A brainstorming session is an essential element for generating ideas or solutions to a problem.

For innovation, it’s essential.

What Is A 3-12-3 Brainstorm?

The 3-12-3 brainstorm compresses ideation into a short, strict time frame. The numbers represent the time for each section.

Ideas generate in the first 3 minutes. The next 12 minutes develop concepts and the final 3 minutes present these concepts.

The key element is speed and the result is increased creativity.

A time constraint forces the mind to work very fast, without over-thinking or second-guessing, generating innovative ideas.

3-12-3 Brainstorm In Practice

In most cases, the overall time increases to two hours.  This allows the facilitator to present the topic and the format of the session. Following this, the brainstorming takes place and the participants discuss their ideas and present them one-by-one.

For example, the chronological development of a brainstorming session 3-12-3 is as follows:

  • 5-10 minutes topic presentation
  • 5 minute presentation outlining the type of brainstorming
  • 3 minutes of ideation
  • 20 minutes for each participant to explain their concept behind the ideas.
  • Smaller groups are created, maximum 3 people per group.
  • 10 minutes for each group to decide which concept they will develop
  • 12 minutes to develop the concepts
  • 3 minutes per team to explain the developed concepts

Session Material:

  • Post-it for the generation of ideas
  • One pen per person
  • A stopwatch to control time in a visible way
  • DIN-A3 pages to write down the concepts
Other Essential Brainstorming Elements

To ensure the success of this session, it’s also important to invite the right people. It’s encouraged to have both experts and non-experts. Non-experts suggest unconventional ideas while experts have the knowledge of what has worked successfully in the past.

The facilitator must be able to keep the session on track, has experience with brainstorming and is unbiased. They are tasked with ensuring participation of all members with no one person dominating the discussion.

At the end of the session the facilitator compiles all the ideas and concepts in a document. S/he should also explain the next steps and provide a summary to all the participants.

What are the most successful brainstorming elements for you?

Photo by bonneval sebastien on Unsplash.