6-3-5 Method

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Engineering Areas
Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or individual
Group
Amount of people
Up to 15, 15-25, 25+
Type of activity
Collaborative team setting
Duration
Half an hour or less
Type of class
Practice-based, Theory-based

Description

What is this technique about

The 6 (x) -3-5 is a group-work creativity method that is functional as a brain-writing activity. Brainstorming is quite useful in engineering under certain conditions. To be more specific, if there is no practical solution to a specific problem at hand, brainstorming could be an effective means of creating practical solutions. The method is one brainstorming technique practiced by a team following a specific brainstorming technique. In the classic version, 6 ideas are generated and developed at the beginning. To do so, six participants write three ideas on separate cards simultaneously within 5 minutes. The cards are then exchanged between the participant(s). Each participant then uses what Is on their cards as a starting point to brainstorm about and add further ideas in the next round (3 rounds are recommended).

Where does it come from 

The 6 -3-5 method was improved by Bernd Rohrbach in the 1960s as a more  systematic system of brainstorming.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

The 6-3-5 method encourages participants to be creative. The method aims to improve the existing shortcomings of other brainstorming techniques, particularly when a team feels to be in deadlock in their search for a solution to a given problem. The 6-3-5 method focuses on the number of ideas, not their quality. This method is very easy to use and provides efficiency to users.

How to use it

The team or the participants should be well-informed about the topic before applying the technique, so that they can generate ideas. In order not to waste time, make sure that the worksheet on the tool you will use is prepared in advance and specify the subject you will work on in the worksheet. There is no need for a moderator, as the participants will play an active role. Also, this method encourages introvert participants to be more active and productive, as there is no direct interaction between participants.

How to implement this techniques online

Preparation, what do before the session

For online classes, any remote collaboration platform with document sharing ability (such as Teams) is sufficient. Make sure that your students have these tools and do your best not to leave any student out. In this respect, thinking ahead to make sure that all students are well equipped technologically for the technique is a must.

    1. Before the lesson, prepare a presentation for your students about what the 6-3-5 technique is.
    2. Make an animation video of how the practice is done, as this technique may seem a bit complicated to students at first.
    3. Ask your students to create sticky notes on the tool where you will apply the technique.
    4. Make sure you have the number of students and group them.

During application, i.e., while giving the session

    1. At the time of your class, inform your students about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ aspects of the 635 technique. This includes the guidelines, duration, context, and the benefits of the exercise. Make sure that your students are informed about the following:
      • The name of the technique comes from the application: six participants should write three potential solutions on an online collaboration tool in 5 minutes time per round.
      • Let your students know that a participant is expected to first read the ideas proposed by others, AND then adding his/her new ideas to the list.
      • Emphasize that each student should share his/her ideas, otherwise the exercise is not complete.
      • As this is a form of brainstorming activity, explain your students that their ideas matter. In this way, encourage them to actively participate in the exercise.
      • Allow room for flexibility. In face-to face classes, these exercises are usually noisy. In an online class, there could be a delay in a group. Try to find a balance between efficiency of the exercise and psychological readiness of the students. In other words, try to motivate your students to actively participate in the exercise.
    1. Use an online collaboration tooI such as MIRO and enable students to access a template. Students should be able to send/write/state their ideas online, therefore both prepare such a template and test it prior to the class.
    2. Start the exercise, and keep an eye on the flow of the exercise but refrain from micromanaging the exercise, as this is an online brainstorming technique. Thus: Make sure that the classes follow the rules of the technique (six participants are involved, each one offers three ideas and there should be five cycles after the first round).
    3. Manage the time – stop the exercise after 5 minutes, and make sure that students move to the next slide.
    4. Create a relaxed atmosphere: your students should feel comfortable enough to share their original ideas.
    5. After the first author receives the list of ideas that s/he started off, the exercise passes to the next step: the class or the team now is expected to evaluate the list of ideas.

Here is an example to the flow of the exercise:

After writing a relevant topic on the tool recommended for this technique, place the (online) sticky notes next to Idea 1, Idea 2 and Idea 3 on the whiteboard in 3 columns. A total of 18 sticky notes are required for 6 participants. Preparing the sticky notes in advance will save you time. Also, using sticky notes on this whiteboard will make it easier to group ideas later. The 5-minute period begins when participants fill in the first line. When the 5 minutes are over, the participants on the right continue in order and the next participants can be inspired by the ideas written. This process continues until you complete 6 rounds. As a result, duplicate ideas are deleted, and ideas are voted on and evaluated. A maximum of 108 ideas can come up in 30 minutes, and this process is repeated until the table is full and 108 ideas have emerged.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

    1. After the exercise is complete, take time to review the ideas and let the team(s) discuss on them. It helps to group, tag and sort or contextualize the ideas in this step. Also, use online voting tools to allow your students to choose the most creative and useful ideas. Using NAF Technique at this stage could be a good option. This could allow you to highlight certain ideas that you can later use in your engineering class.

Examples and/or testimonials

The below is an example of how the method was prepared and facilitated in February 2021 by a student group during the course “Megatrends and Technological Innovation” held by Prof. Dr. Patricia Wolf at the University of Southern Denmark.

Slide 1

    • Build scenarios that focus on answering the question: what will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?
    • 9 rounds of 1 minute
    • 1 minute to come up with one sentence that elaborate on the previous sentence that has been made.
    • First 3 minutes of this exercise you will include terms from the catchword: Wellbeing
    • Next 3 minutes of this exercise you will include terms from the catchword: Sustainability
    • Next 3 minutes of this exercise you will include terms from the catchwords: Technology
    • When the round is over, you will move one slide forward, for example: the person in slide 2, will move to slide 3, and the person in slide 3 will move to slide 4, and so on. For the person in slide 10, that person will move to slide 2.
    • After the last round, you will each vote 3 times on the scenarios you like the mos
    • (By copy paste the heart)

Slide 2 – Ramez: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Happiness and care for people
    • 2. Round – Workplace safety leads to wellbeing
    • 3. Round – Wellbeing is about happiness and fun, which leads to growth
    • 4. Round – Going paperless in offices could help
    • 5. Round – Employees feel empowered to act environmentally responsible
    • 6. Round – In acting like this, they want to make sure to prepare the way for future generations
    • 7. Round – Innovation is the key
    • 8. Round – Including technologies that changes environment, social and economic aspects, like AI
    • 9. Round – The technologies will eventually be implemented at all workplaces due to the success it has proven to be

Slide 3 Amar: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Wellbeing will be prioritized with SDGS being heavily involved in future workplaces
    • 2. Round – As wellbeing will have a large impact
    • 3. Round – Good communication and coordination among the workers has positive impact on employee wellbeing
    • 4. Round – The future of wellbeing requires changes to habits
    • 5. Round – Recycling of waste products in the office could have an effect on the employee’s well-being
    • 6. Round – Social responsibility furthermore increases equality in workplaces increasing wellbeing
    • 7. Round – With digital tools it gets easier to achieve this state of equality
    • 8. Round – AI can be a game-changer
    • 9. Round – Environmental, social, and economic issues will be solved

Slide 4 Frederik: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Balancing between spare time and work life
    • 2. Round – Workdays will be reduced to 4 days to assure the wellbeing of individuals
    • 3. Round – And therefore, create more time to family as it has an impact on your wellbeing
    • 4. Round – Opportunity for employee excellence
    • 5. Round – This is a necessary change to habits of the future
    • 6. Round – Focus on green energy, reducing waste, going paperless, all could improve the well-being of employees since they feel like they have an impact
    • 7. Round – Robots increase productivity
    • 8. Round – This implementation of robots leads to life-changing developments
    • 9. Round – Further research will be needed to achieve desirable results 

Slide 5 Irina: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Care to employee’s mental health will be necessary
    • 2. Round – Management team will need to take care of workers physical and emotional well-being, including fitness etc.
    • 3. Round – Workplaces will offer training exercises and healthy food to employees
    • 4. Round – Sustainability will have a large impact on our future as we will have to maintain the existing resources on earth
    • 5. Round – Sustainable products and minimizing waste
    • 6. Round – This may include a greener future, where animals play a part, for example as office mascots
    • 7. Round – Robots could take over the physical jobs, which means that the ones currently working these jobs could lose them. This could lead to poor both psychological and physical well-being
    • 8. Round – Robots need to be developed and trained which will create new, demanding, and interesting jobs
    • 9. Round – With these new jobs and the technologies a new era of work-life starts

Slide 6 Lina: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – The balance between work and healthy life will play an important role
    • 2. Round – Because employees will value their happiness when evaluating which job to choose
    • 3. Round – Job- and task-rotation is necessary for workers when evaluating, because technology is changing the business landscape
    • 4. Round – A sustainable workplace will be introduced by achieving job and task rotation and happier individuals
    • 5. Round – Which will then create a more sustainable workplace environment
    • 6. Round – Fair work environment for employees
    • 7. Round – These changes will not only be helpful for the employees, but will increase efficiency
    • 8. Round – Working completely digital from home could be a bad thing for the well-being of employees since they may not have a work-life balance like they used to be physically at the office
    • 9. Round – Robots can take over tasks at home of employees so that they have more leisure time next to their work

Slide 7 Melina: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Maximization of happiness and mental + psychological health
    • 2. Round – Management will care to an intensified amount about this health
    • 3. Round – 
    • 4. Round – The future workplace should be shaped in a way that take care of social, economic, and environmental issues
    • 5. Round – Technology will follow the same sustainable path as the 3 above mentioned issues
    • 6. Round – Which hopefully will create a more sustainable future
    • 7. Round – Teleworking-working from home
    • 8. Round – Is a more efficient tool for the future well-being of work
    • 9. Round – Automation of certain tasks could improve the physical well-being of employees since they now may not get hurt doing their physically exhausting jobs

Slide 8 Nicholas: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Working completely from home could potentially lead to a good work/life balance, which could also impact your health
    • 2. Round – Employees have more freedom and time they can use for family and sports instead of traveling to the workplace
    • 3. Round – Holidays are not only for entertainment but even working on your free time can be a welcomed part of holidays
    • 4. Round – That’s how future generations
    • 5. Round – .. Will choose what they prioritize and value in their workplace
    • 6. Round – And achieve a happier life…
    • 7. Round – Technology is taking more over and creating more free-time for the individual
    • 8. Round – Work can be undertaken in different venues due to access to internet
    • 9. Round – …which is an efficient future of working life

Slide 9 Palle: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – The main challenge for this is to create sustainable growth, and happy experiences
    • 2. Round – A good office environment with good employee benefits could improve the psychological and physical well-being of the employees
    • 3. Round – The good office includes space for leisure activities and informal conversations/teamwork
    • 4. Round – Offices also help to maintain long-term happiness
    • 5. Round – By focusing on being green and bring pleasure to those working there
    • 6. Round – An idea for businesses in terms of being green is to make a strategy based on how to implement Circular business model that gives the company a “green” profile
    • 7. Round – Technology will follow through and become more environment friendly to make the whole process “green”
    • 8. Round – This will create a technological future for the upcoming generations
    • 9. Round – Mobile technologies has increased mobility and flexibility in the workplace

Slide 10 Praveena: What will be the role of psychological and physical wellbeing in future workplaces?

    • 1. Round – Flexibility in workplace is essential for employee wellbeing
    • 2. Round – The challenge is to make the flexibility sustainable and healthy
    • 3. Round – Work/life balance would be important to focus on to prevent poor psychological and physical wellbeing
    • 4. Round – Employees can use the office both to work and to take care of plants
    • 5. Round – Green offices, not only with plants but in their ethics, will keep employees motivated and happy
    • 6. Round – And will also help sustaining the future of the planet
    • 7. Round – New technologies like AR, VR and AI is emerging and will change the business landscape and the economy in general
    • 8. Round – Workplaces will implement the new technologies and focus on the society as a whole
    • 9. Round – Which will create an easier technological future

Tools needed

For the 6-3-5 method, online visual collaboration tools such as: 

    • Miro
    • ClickUp
    • Mural

Resources

Links

makeuseof.com: https://www.makeuseof.com/635-brainwriting-technique-for-more-efficient-brainstorming/

Mindtools (n.a.). Brainwriting. Enabling Everyone to Share Their Creative Ideas. Online at: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newct_86.htm

Miro: https://miro.com/

ClickUp: https://clickup.com/

Mural: https://www.mural.co/

Videos

HYPE Innovation (2021, February, 15). Brainwriting: Generate New Ideas in a Short Time! (60sec on Innovation). [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpZi-8zi8PA

Papers

MacNaught, S. (2014). 108 Ideas In 30 Minutes – The 6-3-5 Method OF Brainwriting. Blog session. Online available at http://blogsession.co.uk/2014/03/635-method-brainwriting/

Boutanios, Z. (2015). Creativity Measurement and the 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method. Online available at https://www.fsb.unizg.hr/brodogradnja/UZIR-Essay-Boutanios-Ziad.pdf

Books

Pahl, G., Beitz, W. (1996). Engineering design: A systematic approach. London: Springer.

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