How to hold a successful brainstorming session remotely

09/01/2020

How to hold a successful brainstorming session remotely 

New ideas and approaches are the lifeblood of modern businesses. Today’s commercial world is faster moving than ever before. Organizations must be agile and forward-thinking to stay on top. That’s why firms of all shapes and sizes love brainstorming sessions. Engaging brainstorming sessions help companies get the most from their workforce. They provide an arena in which inspiration can strike. It’s in a cut and thrust brainstorming session that the best ideas get developed for many firms.

If, like many, you’re now managing remote teams, you may think that brainstorming is trickier. Like many things, though, you can still achieve a good brainstorm when working from home. You merely need to know how.

It’s even more of a challenge, but it can be done! And when it’s done well, the results are always worthwhile. Here’re some tips on how to hold a successful brainstorming session remotely:

What is online brainstorming?

Online brainstorming is the process of conducting a brainstorming session online, typically using technologies like an online whiteboard, video conferencing, and file sharing apps. Any time you want to generate ideas as a remote team, online brainstorming is one of the best ways to do it.

Tips for successful virtual brainstorming

Use collaborative tools and technology

Have you ever experienced a virtual meeting where you could never figure out the right moment to talk? You either kept accidentally all speaking at once, or you waited and thus experienced an excruciatingly long and awkward silence. It’s not done intentionally, if you don’t have video (or good video) it’s simply because participants can’t see each other’s facial expressions.

And thus, without good video, you’re only getting half the context. Make sure your video conferencing setup has dynamic video and audio. That way, the meeting is remote-inclusive and remote callers can easily follow along. It’s the most important step to a successful brainstorming session.

Name the problem

Then, define the problem or question that the brainstorming session will aim to address. The question should be clear and concise. For example, instead of “How can we improve our website?” try something like “What first step can we take toward selecting a vendor who can help level up our web design?”

Set a time limit for the meeting

Be respectful of your employees’ time. There are tasks that need to be done each day, so any additional time spent over the scheduled meeting could push into your employees’ personal time.

For example, remember that members of a distributed team aren’t always in the same time zone, so even though it’s 9:00 AM for you, the meeting might be cutting into someone’s dinner. If the discussion isn’t finished by the end of the meeting, schedule another time to talk.

Welcome unusual ideas

You’re going to get some pretty strange ideas during a brainstorm. Again, that’s not a bad thing. Alex Osborn, who first came up with brainstorming as a method for inspiring conversations, once quipped, “It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” An idea that comes out of left field might steer the conversation toward options you’ve never tried before.

Remember, a brainstorm is not the time to drill down on a specific, actionable solution. By trying to drill down too soon, you risk turning a freewheeling brainstorm into a meeting that’s focused on a single idea. Instead, encourage everyone to keep throwing their strange and creative ideas out there, and go with the flow.

Virtual brainstorming tools

Virtual Brainstorm Software

  • Zoom
  • BlueJeans
  • Skype for Business

Visual Brainstorm Tools

  • Mural
  • Miro
  • RemoteHQ

Document Brainstorm Tools

  • Google Docs
  • Confluence
  • Dropbox Paper

Effective virtual brainstorms can be done, they just take a bit of preparation that’s always worth the outcome.