Brainstorming is one of the most valuable ways to bring a whole wealth of ideas to the table. It gives teams the chance to voice their opinions, come up with fresh and innovative ideas and even collaborate with others to produce new and exciting ways to do things. As we head into the holiday marketing season, now is as good a time as any to start brainstorming your campaigns, but how can you do this effectively from home? Is it even possible? We’re investigating.
In short – Yes!
Creativity is a fickle thing at times, with certain environments said to sap it completely, while others nurture it, so is the home environment one of the best, or worst? Research seems to give us evidence for both arguments. A 2012 study suggested that people were more productive working from home when faced with a creative task, but there have also been studies suggesting that distractions at home can make simple tasks harder to focus on – so what is the truth?
The truth is that there is no right or wrong answer for creativity at home, but it can take a bit of work. For workers used to collaborating in an office environment, losing the easy access to a colleague to bounce ideas off of can feel stifling, which is where brainstorming sessions come in. With a simple video call, employees can get back to collaborating and coming up with fresh ideas from the comfort of their own home – it just needs to be organised and handled effectively.
How To Promote Good Brainstorming Remotely
So, how do you go about organising a good brainstorming session? We’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to help you and your employees get the most out of a remote creative brainstorm:
- Understand Your Colleagues/Employees
The nature of your colleagues and employees will have a huge effect on how they handle or interact with brainstorming sessions, particularly those done remotely. Introverts, for example, aren’t typically confident by nature and so don’t tend to look forward to these kinds of group meetings and so you may need to adapt accordingly. Extroverts, on the other hand, may dominate the conversation without even meaning to, which is where having a leader in the call can help to calm things down. Similarly, employees will typically have either creative, or practical minds, and this can alter how they handle a creative brainstorming session – creatives can let their imaginations run wild, while practical-minded people could help to turn these overly creative ideas into more feasible but equally as ambitious plans.
- Assign Roles For Larger Group Discussions
Depending on how many people will be in the call, it could be beneficial to assign a leader, a note-taker and a timekeeper to help ensure things are kept on track. Small group meetings between 2-4 people may not need this, but it could still be helpful if you’re on a time limit. Either way, leaders act as a facilitator that will help to make the session work, whether that’s moving things forward or making sure everyone gets the opportunity to speak up. Timekeepers can make sure that all points are covered as best they can in a short space of time, while note-takers are dedicated to keeping track of what was discussed to share with the group later, to ensure no one missed anything.
- Share Topics Or Resources In Advance
By sharing topics for discussion and any resources you’ve found in advance, you’ll be giving your staff a chance to really think about the points and come up with ideas in the time before the meeting. All brainstorming sessions will have a goal, whether that’s something as simple as coming up with fresh ideas, or finding the solution to an ongoing problem, so providing the team members with this idea before the meeting itself will give them all a chance to have a think and come to the meeting with a deeper understanding of what’s expected, and prepared for the discussion.
- Align Expectations And Goals Before Or At The Start Of The Session
Even after providing topics and goals to the team members before the meeting, it’s still important to align everyone’s expectations just before, or at the start of the meeting to keep everyone on the same page. These shouldn’t be too restrictive in order to promote creativity, but by aligning everyone’s trains of thought, you can ensure all participants are fully engaged and that the session will likely run more smoothly. Low confidence or misunderstandings can break a brainstorming session, so by taking the time to ensure that each team member fully understands and can go into the discussion with confidence, you can promote better ideas, increased productivity and high engagement across the board.
- Give Everyone The Chance To Contribute
Not every member of staff will have the confidence to speak up in meetings, particularly when they’re remote. In large groups in particular, it’s easy for the quieter team members to sit back and listen without contributing their own ideas, simply because they may not have the confidence or nerve to speak up. Introduce a structure that gives everyone the chance to speak – even something as simple as calling on each member of the team one by one can offer that opportunity. Alternatively, you can ask for points and ideas before the meeting, and bring them up as the leader during the brainstorming session to give each idea and each team member their chance to be heard.
- Try New Remote Brainstorming Techniques
Our new way of working often calls for new techniques in meetings, brainstorming sessions and even everyday communication. Brainstorming in the office, where everyone could see and bounce off of eachother, can seem easier and more engaging than sitting alone in a room while on video chat to colleagues, but different virtual techniques can create better engagement and collaboration opportunities. Mindmapping tools, whether that’s an online whiteboard or even just a collaborative document, can give colleagues the opportunity to have their input and share their ideas and thoughts in a written form as well as verbally. Stepladder brainstorming is another technique which can offer everyone the chance to speak up. The technique works like this – start the meeting with only two or three participants. Start the discussion and allow them to discuss for a given amount of time. Then add another participant, and offer the same discussion again, with fresh input. Repeat this until the whole team is in the meeting. It will encourage every member to have a say, and for all existing members to listen to the fresh input.
- Encourage Feedback And Adapt After A Session
There’s no single right or wrong way to brainstorm remotely, but encouraging feedback from the attendees will give you better insight into how they felt it went, and what could be done to improve for the next session. When sending out an email with a debrief and summary of what was discussed, ask the recipients to respond with feedback on how they think the session went and what they personally think could be improved or changed to enhance the experience. Using emails gives them more time to think it through and respond, as well as a more compact, written response that you can draw from when it’s needed.
While working from home for extended periods of time, particularly for teams that are used to being in an office, creativity can feel like a distant memory. However, with the right support, encouragement and structures in place, teams can brainstorm and discuss new ideas remotely, just as effectively as if they were in the office. Communicate with your teams, adapt meeting practices and give a voice to those that would otherwise be quiet – you never know what the group could come up with.