Brainstorming: The Cubing and Webbing Methods

Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa Gregory
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Yesterday, I started a three-part series on brainstorming with an outline of the steps involved in a productive individual brainstorming session. I have found that having this type of structure in a traditionally unstructured activity, like brainstorming, is necessary for anyone who tends to think in a very organized manner. One of the steps discussed yesterday focused on the different processes you can use during your brainstorming session to develop ideas. While I briefly covered a few options, this post will focus on providing detailed information on two types of brainstorming methods – cubing and webbing.

Cubing

Cubing is a brainstorming strategy outlined in the book, Writing, by Gregory Cowan and Elizabeth Cowan (New York: Wiley, 1980). With cubing, like with other brainstorming methods, you start with one topic, challenge or issue. Then, you apply six points of view (like the six sides of a cube) to the issue. You should move quickly through each side of the cube, spending only 3-5 minutes on each side. Here are the six perspectives to consider in cubing:
  1. Describe it – How would you describe this topic, challenge or issue, including characteristics, definitions and parameters?
  2. Compare it – What is it similar to? Different from?
  3. Associate it – How does the topic connect to other issues you’ve dealt with before? Does it make you think of anything you’ve worked on in the past?
  4. Analyze it – What smaller parts make up the whole? Is it possible to break down the issue?
  5. Apply it – How is it used? Who uses it?
  6. Argue for or against it – Explain your position for supporting or not supporting it.
Once you’ve completed each side of the cube, look at your responses to see if there are any emerging patterns. You can apply the evaluation process
to analyze the results of this exercise.

Webbing

Webbing, sometimes referred to as mind mapping, typically involves writing down a number of thoughts and ideas. Then, you return to what you wrote and connect the dots to create a web that links together all of your individual thoughts. This can actually be a very chaotic process, and you have to be willing to let go of your organized mental structure more than in other brainstorming methods. But if you’re successful at webbing, you can develop a number of ideas that are instantly applicable to each other and the topic in question. To start, grab your sheet of paper and write down your focus topic in the center. Then, simply jot down every other idea, concept or consideration you are thinking about that relates to the topic. Ignore placement and formatting for the dumping stage and focus on getting the ideas down on paper. Once your sheet is covered with ideas, start to identify the ideas that relate to each other by circling, starring or otherwise marking them. Then, connect the circles with lines. You may want to use different types of lines, different colors, or even a second sheet of paper or sticky notes to group and regroup your ideas. The end result will be a number of clustered ideas that are connected through a web of lines. This is when you will move to the evaluation stage of brainstorming and start to make sense out of what you’ve created. Related posts:
Image credit: Andrew Beierle

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cubing and Webbing Methods for Brainstorming

What is the main difference between cubing and webbing brainstorming methods?

Cubing and webbing are both effective brainstorming methods, but they differ in their approach. Cubing involves looking at a topic from six different perspectives or ‘sides’ – describe, compare, associate, analyze, apply, and argue. This method encourages deep thinking and exploration of a topic. On the other hand, webbing, also known as mind mapping, involves starting with a central idea and drawing branches out to related subtopics or ideas. This method is more visual and helps in understanding the relationship between different ideas.

How can I effectively use the cubing method for brainstorming?

To effectively use the cubing method, start by identifying your topic or problem. Then, spend a few minutes on each of the six ‘sides’ of the cube – describe the topic, compare it to something else, associate it with other ideas or experiences, analyze it, apply it to a different context, and argue for or against it. This method encourages you to explore the topic in depth and from different angles, which can lead to innovative ideas and solutions.

Can I use webbing for group brainstorming sessions?

Yes, webbing can be an effective tool for group brainstorming sessions. It allows all participants to visually see the flow of ideas and how they are connected. This can stimulate further ideas and discussions. You can start with a central idea and have participants add branches and sub-branches of related ideas.

What are the benefits of using cubing and webbing methods for brainstorming?

Both cubing and webbing methods encourage creative thinking and exploration of ideas. Cubing allows you to look at a topic from different perspectives, which can lead to a deeper understanding and innovative solutions. Webbing, on the other hand, helps you visually map out ideas and their connections, which can help in organizing thoughts and identifying patterns or relationships.

Can these methods be used for any type of brainstorming?

Yes, both cubing and webbing methods can be used for any type of brainstorming, whether it’s for problem-solving, idea generation, planning a project, or writing an essay. These methods are flexible and adaptable to different topics and contexts.

How can I choose between cubing and webbing for my brainstorming session?

The choice between cubing and webbing depends on your personal preference and the nature of the task. If you prefer a more structured and analytical approach, cubing might be more suitable. If you prefer a more visual and free-flowing approach, webbing might be a better choice. Also, consider the nature of the task – if it involves understanding relationships between ideas, webbing might be more effective, while if it involves deep exploration of a topic, cubing might be more suitable.

Can I combine cubing and webbing in a brainstorming session?

Yes, you can combine cubing and webbing in a brainstorming session. For example, you can start with the cubing method to explore a topic in depth, and then use the webbing method to visually map out the ideas and their connections. This can provide a comprehensive and effective brainstorming process.

Are there any tools or software that can help with cubing and webbing?

Yes, there are several tools and software that can assist with cubing and webbing. For webbing, mind mapping software like MindMeister or XMind can be very helpful. For cubing, while there’s no specific software, any tool that allows you to make notes and organize them can be used, such as Evernote or Google Keep.

How can I make my brainstorming session more effective with these methods?

To make your brainstorming session more effective, ensure that you spend enough time on each ‘side’ of the cube or each branch of the web. Don’t rush the process – allow ideas to flow naturally. Also, be open to all ideas, no matter how out-of-the-box they may seem. Remember, the goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible, not to judge or evaluate them.

Can these methods be used for individual brainstorming or are they more suited for groups?

Both cubing and webbing methods can be used for individual as well as group brainstorming. For individual brainstorming, these methods can help you explore and organize your thoughts. For group brainstorming, they can facilitate discussion and collaboration, and ensure that all ideas are considered and explored.