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Sushi Train: The Best Ideation Exercise For Workshops

I have probably spent quarter of this year (or even more) in workshops. And I love it.

The collaborative boiler room environment is something I truly like. You generally come to the solutions faster. All the important stakeholders are present, so participants are more involved and invested in actual results.

Because of the sheer volume of workshops I either attend or moderate, I rotate quite a bunch of different idea exercises. Some exercises work better than others with different groups, and one size does not fit all. One of my current favorites which seems to be generating golden ideas every time is the following:

Sushi Train (group exercise 5 to 10 people)

sushi train

Ideas just keep on piling and piling up…

What you need?
– blank paper (A4) for every group member
– pen
– timer
– fresh ideas
– hopefully readable handwriting (my biggest challenge)

How long does it take?
Depending on the group size, i.e. 5 member team takes 5 minutes to write ideas and about the same to share. Good to have about 30 minutes for this exercise.

How does it work?
1 Min Write your idea on a blank paper. After minute is done, rotate your paper within the group to the next person to you.
1 Min Build upon idea you received from your group member. Rotate the paper. If you cannot build the previous idea, just write a new one.

Continue this until you will receive your first paper back.
Share the ideas within wider group.

It is generally way more effective to force people to write their ideas quietly at first, before you are going to discussion. Brainwriting is better than brainstorming, because latter favors the loudest and those highest in the company food chain. When you have to write, you have to think. And more people think, better and more effective ideas you will generate. Sushi train also encourages collaboration and is a quick acid test for ideas. If other people cannot continue with your idea, it was not probably that good to begin with.

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