Traditional brainstorming sessions often involve team members gathered around a table, throwing out ideas and jotting thoughts and sketches on Post Its. Now that most people are working remotely, brainstorming sessions look a lot different. You no longer have all your team members together in person to share ideas with.
However, you can still accomplish great things with remote brainstorming. While it will look different, you can still get the same creative results.
Clearly state the purpose of brainstorming.
What is the reason for bringing people together for a virtual brainstorm? While it may seem crystal clear to you, it is easy for different assumptions and expectations to develop when your team members work remotely. It helps to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what is trying to be accomplished in the session. Be sure to consider the individuals you want to include in the brainstorm. Remember, you get the best results with a diverse group. That is because brainstorming is all about combining knowledge and skills.
Give time for private thinking.
To make the most of a virtual brainstorm session, give people time to generate ideas in advance. Do not just jump into the video call and invite your team members to immediately toss out their ideas. This is a definite way to limit creativity because people in groups tend to enter a state of groupthink. Before the session, ask each person or small group to contribute their initial ideas to you via email so you can capture them before your team members start to influence one another’s thinking.
Share the initial ideas with everyone.
After you receive thoughts from individuals or small groups, put them into a randomized list but keep the ideas anonymous. Then, share the compilation with everyone so they can think about the other ideas before you bring the group together.
Consider other perspectives.
When you review the initial list of ideas, think about another area of expertise that might help the cause. Remember the particular strengths of the person who generated the idea; or, perhaps there is a voice that is missing. When you slow down the process, you give yourself a chance to include multiple voices. This usually would not be possible with traditional brainstorming.
Finally, bring everyone together.
Now it is time to bring everyone together virtually to discuss, combine, sort, and modify the most promising ideas and begin planning for the next steps. While this approach might feel like you are draining energy away from around-the-table brainstorming, it allows you to benefit from a broader range of voices and ideas.
Whether you host formal brainstorming sessions annually or more often, remember that you do not need to gather everyone face-to-face to gain the benefits. By taking an approach of gathering ideas in advance and then opening the floor for discussion, you might see such encouraging results that you never go back to traditional in-person brainstorming again. You may also see one of the great benefits of brainstorming–people building on each other’s ideas. Try this, and thrive.