Brainstorming with Da Vinci: Chapter 26

Collaborative Relay

A Relay Race to Bigger Ideas

It is common for movies to have multiple screenwriters work on a script. Some get credit, some don’t. One of the more interesting uncredited writers is Carrie Fisher who revised over two dozen scripts including Hook, Sister Act, and Wedding Singer.

Carrie Fisher got her start editing dialogue on Star Wars. Harrison Ford was rewriting his lines in the movie, and his changes became annoying to Fisher, because they impacted her lines. By the third film, Fisher was rewriting a little bit of her dialogue. Based on this, George Lucas asked her to punch up the dialogue in one of the prequels.

Fisher was often brought into movies for different reasons, like rewriting female dialogue or love scenes, or bringing a “woman’s touch” to a mother/child relationship. She explained that she was “a good script doctor” because she would “respect the original tone or dialect of the original and try to rewrite it according to what it [was] already. [i]

Collectively editing and adding to an idea is a great way to create a masterpiece, because you are leveraging multiple people’s expertise. While this can be done through team collaboration, sometimes there is an initial need to work independently. Like multiple people revising a movie script, the collaborative relay prompts the team to revise ideas independently before sharing ideas with the group. This method works well if you are crunched for time or have multiple introverts on the team who may be reluctant to share.

[i] “Carrie Fisher, Script Doctor: Her Unknown Legacy Examined”, Slash Film, Peter Sciretta, December 29, 2016,

Collaborative Relay Method

The collaborative relay is a way to generate many ideas quickly. The method is a form of the creative strategy called brainwriting. This Da Vinci method engages each team member to write down their initial ideas in a document; then the document is passed sequentially to each team member, and they add tactics to the idea. If you have a team of seven brainstormers, you could generate up to twenty-one ideas with this method.

Kick-Off Exercise

This method is used to kick off the first brainstorming session. You have two options. You can either have people do a collaborative relay prior to the beginning brainstorming or it can be the first activity you do within the first session.

This is also a method you can use if you are pressed for time. Team members can complete the document prior to the session, and then the team focuses on building and refining ideas in the session.

Three Ideas and Five Minutes

The method begins with everyone writing down up to three ideas within their own collaborative relay template (I included an example of the template at the end of this chapter). The idea architect gives people about five minutes to write down their ideas. The idea description should be brief, like a sentence or two.

The next step is to pass their paper to the person next to them. Every person will then build on each idea by adding a few bullet points. After five minutes, the relay continues as each person passes again. The process continues until you complete the relay, and every team member has a chance to weigh in on everyone’s ideas.

Combine, Build, and Refine

After everyone has contributed to all the ideas, you will lead the team and combine, build, and refine ideas. There is a good chance that multiple people will come up with similar ideas; therefore, your first step is to combine ideas that are alike. After combining ideas, you would cycle through each idea to build them by gathering any additional thoughts—and refine them by adjusting or removing elements that aren’t needed.