What are the best techniques for collaborative idea generation in this new world of self-isolation? Working remotely doesn't have to spell disaster for your team brainstorm sessions. Here, we look at some of the most effective and fun ways to get those ideas flowing and working together for exciting new innovations.
The enthusiasm shared with your co-workers need not be lost. It serves as fuel for the creation of great projects. This enthusiasm can even be enhanced, if you harness the right pathways. We're going to look at some unique, helpful, and intriguing ways to add to your team's success.
Let's go over some brainstorming techniques. Then we'll talk about the best tools for the job.
Paths to Virtual Brainstorming
You're always adapting to the latest technology, but are you letting it fully work for you? Let's take a look at some virtual brainstorming techniques.
Begin With a Brief
For a brainstorming session to be as effective as possible, prep all participants at least one day ahead of time. Ideation on the fly isn't ideal.
Planning ahead can make your brainstorm more fruitful, allowing the participants to digest the information and giving them the time to do some research and come up with great questions.
First, ask these questions:
- Do we need a meeting or a brainstorm? Know the difference.
- How many sessions do we need?
- Who do we need to involve?
- What is our agenda?
After asking these basic questions, move one to more specific ones. You may even consider brainstorming with the team, exactly what questions to ask. This will open everyone's mind and keep them invested.
Creative questions will give your team a burst of energy rather than keeping them in the dark -- approaching the meeting with confusion. You love when your team hits that state of group flow, so give it a boost with that extra bit of anticipation and passion for that specific project's creation.
Collaborate by Assigning Roles
Try to assign certain individuals or groups with roles. This will make the ideation process streamlined. Here's one example of how you can break it down:
- Brainstorming project ideas with criticism and caution
- Think of ideas purely based on numbers and evidence
- Positive and pragmatic thinking
- Ideas based on feelings and emotions
- Creative, out-of-the-box, and original thinking
You can make this a little more like a game and have them wear different colour hats depending on their roles. This way, you'll keep it lighthearted while getting everyone used to which colour goes with which role for the next time you use this technique.
A Little Competition Never Hurts
Encourage employees by pinning each contributor's name next to their respective ideas on a virtual whiteboard. Circles winning ideas with different colours.
This is a fun way to motivate everyone to contribute as well as take responsibility for their ideas. Team members will feel pushed to suggest better ideas as you go along.
Work Separately Together
For individual work, have everyone take 15 to 30 minutes to quickly write their ideas. After this time, they can forward those results to the facilitator who will then post them for discussion.
Consider individual teamwork, if you will. One person can take five minutes to write 3 ideas in a designated Google Doc. Then the second person opens it and writes another 3 ideas in five minutes.
Continue this until all of your teammates have shared 3 ideas, then the facilitator evaluates those contributions. This process allows the option to piggyback off of someone else's ideas or add their own. Putting minds together this way feeds innovation.
Avoid Relying Solely on Video Chat
By using Zoom or another video call platform, you can make a lot of headway with brainstorming sessions, but don't rely on only this. It's great for discussion, but list the ideas in another project management tool or software. Some individuals come up with the best ideas alone rather than only interfacing with the team.
Keep It Simple
Use as few virtual programs as possible, but use the right ones. Project ideation can drag out too long, taking up valuable time. Having everyone learn the right programs is much more efficient than putting them through a lot of grueling training.
Discouragement is the enemy of ideation. Keep instructions simple, such as semantic intuition, customer wishing, worst idea, questioning assumptions, etc. Deliver these instructions via email or Slack for great results.
Use the "yes and ..." approach to build on each other's ideas during creative sketching. Use a virtual whiteboard as we discussed earlier, but keep track of them. By using this mindset at the get-go, your team members' creative energy will be free and you'll all go into it with an agreed-upon looseness.
Ideation Tools and Techniques
The collaborative mentality needs to flourish if your company is going to stay ahead of the game. The most innovative projects call for some of the most imaginative thinking. That's why finding the best ideation tools and techniques matters.
The fragility of ideas comes into play here. Try to avoid hostility or discouragement caused by bored facial expressions or body language, distracting behaviours, or outside conversations, even while on mute. Remind everyone that they're being watched, not just listened to, for feedback, and to keep this in mind while on a video conference call.
Work in Bursts
Shoot ideas back and forth via texts, tagging, sharing images, clips, and links. Breaks are then seen as acceptable due to the time differences and knowledge of solo ideation rather than lack of input. The real-time aspect is taken into consideration.
Become More Visual
Utilising storyboards is an excellent way to improve understanding and organisation of project ideas as a team. Visual learners are more apt to contribute richer ideas than via video calls alone.
Add ideas to the storyboard once a week so you're building onto something more tangible. This creates team cohesion and visual memory of everyone's efforts.
Remember to Mute
Since video meeting software responds to sound, even the slightest noise can bring you into the foreground while someone else is speaking. This is confusing and distracting, so make muting a habit. Instruct your team ahead of time on this issue for remote session success.
On The Spot
No one likes to be on the spot Be enthusiastic about the free exchange of ideas. If someone is called upon to share out of the blue, they may offer something mediocre relative to that shared in an environment of free thought.
Give everyone an hour or so to put their ideas into their own digital tracking tool. This will give them the confidence and organisation required to contribute fully to the next session, with their own interpretation of, and supplementation to, the current session.
The Best Tools
We've talked about the processes and tips for great remote brainstorming, so now let's explore some of the best tools to use. Zoom is all too common, so we won't get into too much depth in regards to its primary service.
Be sure your information is secure by using the best.
Docs is still a wonderful brainstorming tool. However well-known it might be, it's updated regularly and works like a charm for many types of sessions.
It's easy to share, edit, suggest changes, and let everyone rate and comment on any and all of the material within it. Everything, including comments and chat threads, are automatically saved within the cloud. Document links can be shared with everyone involved or certain groups or individuals.
All you need is a Google account to use Google Hangouts, so if you're in a situation where team members have this but no collaboration software or tools installed, it can be used in a pinch.
The chatbox below the session works amazingly for note-taking and idea tracking and is kept intact after the session. It makes group note-taking is simple and effective to a point. Share concepts or articles with the group this way as well, using the screen-share feature.
Don't be afraid of going "old-school" and using IdeaBoardz for brainstorming. Some of the benefits include timed writing, combining ideas, voting on top one to five, making a fresh idea board for each concept. Discuss the best ideas afterward.
Ludicchart is like a virtual drawing board, and a wonderful tool for making diagrams, and drawing up different plans and sketches. It includes cool design elements such as bubbles, links, arrows, layers on, and more. This can unleash creativity for product planning and more.
Miro is a favourite tool among project managers. It provides you with a virtual whiteboard including pre-built templates and sticky notes. It allows for the importing of PDF, images, keynotes, PowerPoint files, etc. You can easily export the whole board and share it with your team after the session.
Miro integrates easily with Slack and many other instant messaging apps. This way, people can post ideas anytime from anywhere.
This tool includes and digital dry-erase board, and all members can contribute to it. Mural also has a sticky-note feature which is great for organising lists, diagrams, and flowcharts that can help you with your virtual brainstorm or validation plan.
With Otter.ai, an expert in a certain subject can record themselves talking about the key points. Then they can share it with the team.
This works well for people who like taking audio notes. Capture your thoughts while on a walk or somewhere you can't sit down and type them or write them out. It works great for people who aren't the fastest typers but have fleeting ideas that need to be recorded.
Dedicate a Slack channel to a specific project idea. There is a plugin that allows each team member to vote on a new idea. Try to give everyone a 24-hour window in which to cast their vote so you can cover all time zones associated with your team.
Even though there are many new tools out there, don't forget about how effective texting can be for collaboration, sometimes in conjunction with other tools. This is another old-school tactic and removes the stage-fright of speaking allowed. You can print out all the ideas afterward to share with the group.
Create a column for ideas, and then anyone on the team with access can submit them into that column. Drag important ideas along the content pipeline. Customise it to fit your company or website's unique type of workflow.
Ziteboard is an online whiteboard brainstorming tool offering real-time collaboration. It's uniquely helpful because it gives you a visual representation of ideas you'd like to brainstorm. Not only is it an online whiteboard, but it offers PDF import and export, as well as voice chat.
Here at Danger Farms, we're are proud to have completely transformed a client's project in just three months. Our client took on the biggest technology initiative in their history -- moving an entire business process for back-office staff and customers over to a digital ecosystem.
They needed 24/7 access and automation, and we helped them achieve the greatest efficiency they've seen to date.
After thorough interviewing, gathering customer feedback, and recognising all issues involved, we released a smart chatbot that gained our client £1.2 million in their efficiencies. For this, we're proud to have received the "Innovation of the Year" at the industry awards.
Read more about the business model example and case study here.
Create Calm in a Virtual Brainstorm
We know you want the best for your team. So choose the most appropriate tools and technology in this age of remote brainstorming and ideation. Whether you're filling out a calendar or rethinking an entire project or product, use the right ideation tools and techniques to stay streamlined and efficient.
We want to bring out the best in your team and help you create something truly unique. This means taking the time to accommodate each individual's most effective and most comfortable contribution style. For full-service support in team collaboration and ideation, contact us today.