Solving the challenge of brainstorming when everyone is remote
Forbes writer Michelle Greenwald spoke with Tucker Fort, Partner at Smart Design, about the challenges of bringing new ideas to life in a remote setting. Here, Tucker shares five ways Smart Design developed that keep remote brainstorms productive and engaging.
1. Keeping Up The Group’s Energy
The challenge: The emcee/brainstorm session facilitator needs to remotely and simultaneously manage ways of working, including providing relevant background for participants, managing how much time is spent on each exercise, sharing idea stimuli, and troubleshooting tech issues, while also keeping up the group’s energy.
Solutions: Platforms like Miro, integrate the needed tech (timer, video conferencing, and virtual blackboard) that helps lighten the load. Another alternative is dividing those tasks among 2 people, giving the time and tech responsibilities to one of them.
2. Expressing Ideas Visually Can Be Harder Online Than In-Person
The Challenge: Going from a paper sketch idea to quickly sharing it with a remote group via video conference is an adjustment.
A Solution: Using your phone as a second video allows participants to live-share sketches and ideas they’ve drawn on paper. For those not comfortable with drawing, icon libraries and web searches can be used to create visual idea collages quickly and effectively.
3. Keeping It Fun And Multi-Sensory
The Challenge: Keeping the sessions fun and multi-sensory is important. Disadvantages of brainstorming remotely include:
– Not being able to have physical, tangible, inspiring stimuli at hand, like product samples, analogous examples, or relevant objects
– Not being surrounded with visual triggers, like mood boards or a decorated physical environment
– Not having fun food and beverages to munch on, to liven things up
Solutions: You can still use music to influence the mood while ideating and you can send inspiration kits, with physical stimuli, and even treats, in advance. You can also email digital inspiration kits as well as links of short videos, to be used during the brainstorm.
4. Building On Ideas and Co-Creation
The Challenge: Verbal building on ideas is challenging over video calls,, and “free for all” communication, common in brainstorms, doesn’t work well.
Solutions: It’s easier to build on ideas asynchronously, non-verbally within virtual blackboard spaces, compared to traditional, in-person sessions. It takes more time, but that can also result in more ideas percolating and being captured.
5. Distractions and Focus
The Challenge: It’s virtually impossible to ensure that brainstorm participants are not multi-tasking, doing other work, or being distracted by family members.
Solutions: All participants need to be encouraged to turn on their computer cameras to be more accountable/viewable, and to participate fully. Those who have been quiet need to be specifically asked for ideas and feedback, analogous to “cold calling” in classes. A side benefit is that in online groups, it’s more difficult for individuals to break into subgroups and get distracted by side conversations.