A short guide to successful brainstorming in the world of remote work
Nowadays you can hear from nearly every corner of the Internet about how to leverage your business, to be more productive, or to stop “wasting time”. It might feel overwhelming trying to live up to the expectations we have to face. This article is like none of these persuasive texts though. So grab a cup of tea or coffee and find out why dedicating time to creative discussions might be more effective than being in a constant rush. Let’s talk about brainstorming sessions and, more specifically, about online meetings, which turn out to be more effective than in-person appointments.
It’s natural to write down ideas that pop our minds so that we remember about them later. Drawings, maps, schemes - they all help to unify the thoughts of the whole team, to choose the best concepts, and build a bigger picture of an outstanding issue.
What more is there behind a brainstorm meeting?
The idea of mind mapping
We bet that you are aware of this fictional situation, when a detective in a thriller movie has a complicated mystery to solve. To help themself with organizing the investigation, they create a huge network of connections between particular characters and events that is pinned on the wall. It’s full of lines, photos and sticky notes to present a bigger picture of the case. That’s exactly what creating a mind map looks like - in a simplified manner.
What exactly are mind maps?
You don’t have to be a private investigator to create mind maps, and they can be successfully used for every work project. A mind map can look different depending on the method that you choose to create it. Basically, it’s a diagram or scheme that represents concepts or tasks on a whiteboard. Participants can build an intuitive framework with sticky notes, photos, or other items, which are arranged and built up around a central idea.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s a method that can be used both for teams and your own personal use, since it’s also great for individual note-taking.
Why does your team need to brainstorm?
Take a minute to think about your childhood. Can you recall imagining new games and things to do when playing with your friends? Or how important a task it was to write things down on a whiteboard at school? As you should agree, brainstorming was an integral part of it. We just didn’t care back then if a scientist had given a name to that process (but now, as serious business people, we do). Later, some will have been taught that drawing pictures of ideas is a waste of time, and that we should think of simpler, faster solutions. This perception is hopefully starting to change.
Benefits of brainstorming sessions
Creating mind maps can help with making the most of your team’s potential. According to this study, brainstorming sessions help to facilitate lateral thinking. Creative discussions held by those teams identified four features of such meetings that help with solving problems and gathering useful ideas:
- To create a safe space where participants felt comfortable with their groups, they tried not to evaluate the concepts at the first stage of brainstorming.
- Avoidance of providing negative feedback right away enables team members to share even impractical ideas without fear of being embarrassed.
- Thanks to freewheeling, there comes another strong benefit of brainstorming called piggybacking, which is the possibility of building concepts onto the ideas of others.
- Concept building is possible because a team is primarily focused on quantity - the quality of ideas isn’t as important as gathering as many as possible in order to have a variety of materials to work with later.
These are important features from the team’s perspective that help with making projects unique. Brainstorming can do much more than just gathering fresh ideas though, but we’ll get to this later. From an employer’s point of view, brainstorming has several benefits. It helps with building cohesiveness, and thus increasing employee commitment. As we know, workers who are happy in their jobs are less likely to quit, so brainstorming can indirectly lessen employee turnover in your company.
And most importantly - you can capture ideas when they are still hot but don’t seem to make complete sense, and thus could be forgotten. We don’t have to talk about how many concepts that came about unexpectedly turned out to be game-changers, right?
Benefits of brainstorming sessions
There are many methods for creating a mind map. Handling a brainstorming meeting might be challenging, especially in the world of remote work. It’s a useful ability to be able to nail online meetings, as more and more industries are tending to move work to digital. Although it might seem even more tricky to manage a session online, recent studies show that virtual sessions actually give better results - almost 70% of participants may perform worse in traditional brainstorming sessions compared to onlines ones. Also, in contrast to real-life meetings, online appointments are more scalable, so you can add more people at once to your project. Each person has the opportunity to leverage the potential of your team and contribute a new idea to existing ones. What’s more, meta-analyses show that virtual brainstorming enhances creative performance by almost 50% over in-person sessions.
According to the same study, there are three main reasons for that:
- Online brainstorming eliminates production blocking, as the dominant participants who tend to talk too much don’t have as much possibility of taking over the session and eclipsing others.
- Virtual brainstorming supports those who prefer to share ideas anonymously. Such people might underperform in traditional sessions, but online they can participate actively in the idea-generating process. Also, anonymity helps with judging concepts in a more objective way.
- Online sessions can increase the diversity of ideas. Because most creative employees can’t dominate a discussion in the idea-generation phase, virtual brainstorming can encourage participants to offer a wider variety of ideas.
From scientific and psychological aspects, let’s move swiftly on to what’s the most important - putting practice.
A short guide to effective brainstorming sessions
Brainstorming supports collaborative planning, teamwork and teaching classes. It can be implemented at workplaces, schools, universities and even used for planning personal projects. It’s a creative problem-solving solution that enables you to structure writing, make storyboards and create marketing or UX personas. It’s useful for developing insights and finding connections.
All this sounds promising, but how to make the most of it? Here are 4 tips that can help you with managing your team’s brainstorming sessions successfully.
#1 Use dedicated brainstorming software
It’s hard to handle a brainstorming session remotely without the right tool to work with. A virtual session should be facilitated by new technologies that allow participants to seamlessly share their ideas. Workflow is determined mostly by the features offered by the chosen software, so picking the right tool is key. It should allow the sharing of materials on whiteboards, creating notes in real-time, and arranging everything in the right order.
Try to use software that is intuitive, as it’s your team that’s important - not the tool itself. There’s a variety of solutions available on the SaaS market. Here are some propositions:
- MiroApp is an online tool for brainstorming that you can use for free or upgrade to a paid version. It provides you with anonymous voting, which is a great advantage for those employees who may not be comfortable with sharing ideas in public. You can picture your vision with sticky notes, diagrams, image, docs, and even gifs, which you add to the whiteboard.
- A similar tool is Conceptboard, which is a space for managing visual content and ideas across one workspace. It offers a variety of mind maps and whiteboard templates. To avoid chaos, it provides users with a live moderation feature.
You could also use a platform that isn’t specifically a mind map creating tool, yet provides features to run brainstorming sessions - but we’ll get to those later.
#2 Teach your team how to use the brainstorming tool of your choice
To make remote collaboration seamless, it’s crucial to be aware of the options that your tool provides you with, so watch tutorials and try out the features yourself before you start a team meeting. Think about running a workshop to teach your employees how to use a particular tool. It would take just one appointment to prevent wasting time on answering disruptive questions about software options during the actual brainstorm. Nothing is more frustrating than a person who interrupts you with irrelevant queries when you have a nice workflow.
#3 Try out different techniques and see what works best for you
When every team member knows how the software works, think outside the box and try out different techniques of work. Apart from using a whiteboard with sticky notes, use pre-made templates that match the topic or the goal of your project. You can go for diagrams or schemes - anything that’d suit you.
Stay organized and make an evaluation after every brainstorming meeting. Create a poll to ask others for feedback and to vote for the best solution. Always think of the bigger picture and remember about the aim of each brainstorm.
#4 Brainstorming via video chat
Keep in mind that personal contact is key, so think about having a conversation in real-time while working on a board. Although some tools provide you with the possibility to manage the actions of other participants live, this might be not enough. Also, switching between brainstorming software and a live chat or video conference tool could be problematic and inconvenient. Disappearing tabs, bugs when multiple pieces of software at the same time, and message chaos - we’ve all been there.
When choosing an online brainstorming tool, consider going for an omnichannel platform. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a mind map centralized hub. Sometimes thinking beyond the obvious can be both innovative and cost-effective, as you only pay for one tool instead of two.
For example, using an omnichannel webinar platform could be the golden mean that will help you with the handling of both conversations and brainstorming online. LiveWebinar offers solutions that can make your collaborations complex and robust. You can use a whiteboard on which nicknames of the presenters are shown right next to the cursors of participants, in order to make it clear who’s currently taking an action. LiveWebinar is also integrated with Prezi, so making a presentation online together is possible. If you feel that your team should be divided into groups to take care of smaller parts of a project separately, you can send them to breakout rooms. And finally, LiveWebinar allows for the creation of polls or survey for project evaluation.
Time for an online brainstorm
When you already know how your team can benefit from handling a brainstorming session, you can do the research and choose a few core elements. To do this, carefully determine your needs and ask yourself relevant questions to be able to make informed decisions.
Here’s what you should take into account:
- Read comparisons between the different tools that you could use. Decide if you need a mind map creator or an interactive webinar platform, perhaps.
- When you feel ready to make a subscription, see if the software of your choice offers a free trial version, like LiveWebinar does. The proof is in the pudding.
- Make a workshop to show your employees how to use the tool of choice so that they can focus solely on creative aspects in future sessions.
- Create a management plan for yourself to avoid chaos. You might run a guided group brainstorm, a nominal group technique or a group passing technique. You can get to know each of these methods in this video.
- Always remember to evaluate afterwards and ask for feedback in-person or via surveys.
Group brainstorming can give your team the bigger picture of a project and be a unifying factor when each member works from home. Let ideas naturally emerge from one another and make the most of your team’s creativity.
If you still aren’t convinced whether you should familiarise yourself with online tools to leverage remote work or not, you can read this article about the need for moving to digital.
Happily combines a love of writing and new technology as a copywriter, and enjoys the puzzle of putting together a good article. In her spare time she likes to catch up on the latest, greatest books, bake chocolate chip cookies and ponder her next travel destination.More posts