Notes on 3-12-3 Brainstorming

(From a 10/27/13 post by Dave Gray on, link here)

The name derives from the amount of time devoted to each portion of the exercise

If possible, boil concepts to be brainstormed down into two words: instead of “How will tomorrow’s television work?” use “television’s future” to evoke thinking about defining aspects first, rather than solutions

Distribute index cards and markers to team members

  • 3 minutes of making observations (individual)
    • Write down characteristics one per card
    • Include both nouns and verbs
    • No filtering! No bad ideas! Just ideas
    • You may find it helpful to do a quick card sort to cluster ideas
  • 12 minutes of combining observations into rough concepts (pairs)
    • Each team draws three cards randomly
    • Using these as starters, sketch out a concept in 12 minutes
  • 3 minutes of presenting concept to entire team (pairs)
    • Show cards and explain concept (but don’t waste time explicitly connecting cards and concept)

After the presentations, teams may:

  • Dig deeper into one or more concepts
  • Integrate concepts
  • Vote/rank concepts to see which should get further development

About Dave Gray (from his site): Dave Gray is a leader and manager with a background in design. He has worked with many of the world’s largest companies, as well as mid-sized businesses, startups, executives and individuals.

He is the founder of XPLANE, a strategic design consultancy, and co-founder of Boardthing, a collaboration platform for distributed teams.

He is the author of two books on design, change and innovation: Gamestorming: A playbook for innovators, rule-breakers and changemakers; and The Connected Company.


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