A bad brainstorm can feel a lot like a high school locker room, complete with apprehension, humiliation and a general unwillingness to participate. On the flip side, a good brainstorm has the capacity to shape a new project into the next award-winning campaign or idea. As remote workspaces and remote teams continue to grow and shape the workforce, how do you maintain strong brainstorm practices virtually?

The Reality of Brainstorming Effectiveness
What if I told you that traditional brainstorms really aren’t all that effective? As reported by Harvard Business Review, a meta-analysis from the Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology suggests that:

“Virtual brainstorming enhances creative performance – versus in-person brainstorming sessions…almost 70% of participants can be expected to perform worse in traditional than virtual brainstorming sessions.”

The Reasons Why Virtual is More Effective
If you take into account some of the difficulties some people experience in an in-person brainstorm session, the virtues of virtual brainstorming begin to take shape. Some key reasons that virtual brainstorming is more effective include:

  • Virtual brainstorming eliminates production blocking, where dominant voices take over a session
  • Enables heightened feelings of anonymity, leading to more creative, out-of-the-box ideas
  • Increases the diversity of ideas – the core goal of any good brainstorm

How to Get the Most Out of Virtual Brainstorms
So, the question remains – how do you run a truly effective brainstorm in a remote setting? The answer seems to be – keep it simple. Here at The Fletcher Group, we try not to overthink the brainstorming process, even virtually, and live by a few key rules to building an engaging, impactful brainstorm session:

  1. Do it in phases. Start with a strong prompt and ask for participants to spend half of the time of the total brainstorm process to noodle on their own. Solo-brainstorming or virtual brainstorms via email before and after a large brainstorm are great ways to vet and mesh ideas and build on favorite concepts. Then, once you have some ideas, transform them into programs to see how – or if – they’ll really work and brainstorm again to refine and rebuild.
  2. Host a tight, focused “live” brainstorm via video or phone to flesh out ideas – ask everyone to bring their 2-3 best ideas to the table. For virtual brainstorms, consider getting the team live on a web conference, and use a shared note space to track and build ideas in real-time. This can be hosted in a variety of ways, including a simple shared document (like Google Docs) or by tapping into tools like Miro that support online brainstorming and notetaking.
  3. Move beyond an “ideas per minute” model. Often times, the most fruitful brainstorms are the ones that take a few solid ideas all the way to actionable, creative concepts. Adding to the collective energy of a brainstorm goes far beyond rapid-fire idea generation. The rubber meets the road when your team is able to build on and recombine ideas into workable concepts.

The bottom line? Unleash the brainstorm but be thoughtful with how you go about it. Brainstorm sessions are a great way to tap into your team’s diverse knowledge, interests and backgrounds. At The Fletcher Group, we know that each individual on our team comes with a unique set of talents, hobbies and passions – which can lead to some pretty amazing creative thinking.

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