Better than brainstorming? Potential contextual boundary conditions to brainwriting for idea generation in organizations


Correspondence should be addressed to Professor Peter A. Heslin, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275-0333, USA (e-mail:


Organizations and societies all need good, useful ideas to survive and prosper. People often enjoy brainstorming, though it is not as productive as they tend to believe. Groups can potentially generate more and better ideas when ‘brainwriting’; that is, silently sharing written ideas in a time- and sequence-structured group format. This conceptual paper identifies likely boundary conditions to the promising findings from brainwriting laboratory research generalizing to real-world organizational contexts. Important dimensions of organizational context may be revealed by drawing on the journalistic principle to examine what, who, when, where, and why certain outcomes result from particular organizational practices (Johns, 2006). Multiple potential contextual moderators are suggested in each of these five areas. Subsequent field research will inform the idea-generation literature as well as those concerned with eliciting high-quality, useful ideas to address particular organizational and societal challenges.