As your team gears up for Annual Planning, it’s essential for teams to engage in effective brainstorming together. Good brainstorming sparks creativity, ignites collaboration, and unleashes the power of our collective smarts.
Whether you’re conducting your Annual Planning session in person or remotely, using a digital brainstorming tool can be a game-changer for you (and an even better option than the typical whiteboard or flipchart approach). Here are a few reasons why:
- Scalability: You can include as many people as you need without space constraints
- Wherever & whenever collaboration: Team members scattered across different time zones can contribute at their convenience
- Get ahead: You can get people thinking and contributing ideas ahead of the session, saving valuable time in your planning meeting
- Unlimited space: You're not limited by the size of a physical whiteboard (or flipcharts) to capture and organize all ideas
- Readability: No more head-scratching, asking “What does that say?”
- Introvert-friendly: introverts and extroverts can share ideas and participate equally
To get the most out of your digital brainstorming tools, follow these best practices:
Preparation is Key
Before you start brainstorming, take some time to prepare well. The facilitator should think about the following:
- Who should participate? Invite a diverse group of people with different perspectives and expertise.
- What is the goal of the session? What specific problem are you trying to solve?
- How will you structure the session? Will you use a specific brainstorming technique?
- What ground rules should be established? For example, encourage participants to be open-minded and to build on each other's ideas.
You may also want to assign some prep work for the team to do before the session. This could involve researching the topic or coming up with a list of ideas beforehand.
Choose the Right Tool
When choosing a tool for virtual brainstorming, it is important to consider the following:
- Ease of use: The tool should be easy to use for everyone involved, even those who are not tech-savvy.
- Features: The tool should have the features you need for your brainstorming session. For example, if you want to be able to convert ideas into goals, you will need a tool that supports this.
- Familiarity: If possible, choose a tool that your team is already familiar with. This will save time and frustration during the session.
If you are a Rhythm user, you can use built-in Idea Boards for virtual brainstorming. The Idea Board is a simple but effective tool that allows you to capture, categorize, vote, rank, and convert ideas to goals.
The Idea Boards feature is built into Meetings created in Rhythm. Create your Idea Board, add topics to brainstorm, and start brainstorming! You can add new ideas, vote on ideas, and discuss ideas with your team members. Once you have a list of ideas, you can easily rank them and then convert them to goals. Here’s how:
Create a safe space for ideas to flow
Once you have your tools and structure in place, it's time to create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. Here are a few tips:
- Start with a warm-up activity. This could be a simple icebreaker or a more creative exercise, such as asking everyone to share their favorite idea for a new product or service.
- Set ground rules. This could include things like "no judgment," "one idea at a time," and "build on each other's ideas."
- Explain the process. Let everyone know how the brainstorming session will work, including how ideas will be captured and organized.
- Gather as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time, and stick to just brainstorming. You’ll figure out the “how” later in your planning session.
Discuss and Decide
Once you have a thorough list of ideas, ensure everyone understands what each suggestion means. Take the necessary time to discuss and ensure clarity. Then it's time to evaluate each suggestion. This can often be a challenge, as there are many different factors to consider, such as feasibility, impact, and alignment with your overall goals.
Here are tips for evaluating ideas:
- Consider the feasibility of each idea. How difficult and expensive would it be to implement? Do you have the necessary resources and capabilities?
- Evaluate the potential impact of each idea. How much of a difference would it make to your business and your team? Would it solve a major problem or create a new opportunity?
- Look objectively at ideas through the lens of your overall goals. Make sure that the ideas you pursue are in line with your long-term vision for your business.
Rhythm’s Idea Boards make it easy for participants to vote on their favorites from the suggested ideas, and then rate suggestions by their level of Impact and Ability to Execute.
Turn ideas into action
Once you've identified the most promising ideas, it's time to turn them into SMART goals. This is where many brainstorming sessions fall short, as teams often struggle to move from grand ideas to practical execution. One way to overcome this challenge is to ensure your brainstorming tool can help you manage the entire process, from idea generation to execution. Rhythm's Idea Boards allow you to easily convert your ideas into goals, assign owners, clarify success criteria, and set a start and end date for each goal.
Regardless of the tool you use, here are some additional tips for turning ideas into action:
- Create a clear plan. Once you've decided on which ideas to pursue, develop a detailed plan for how you will implement them. This plan should include specific steps, timelines, and resources required.
- Assign responsibility. Assign each task in the plan to a specific person or team. This will help to ensure that everyone knows what they need to do.
- Set deadlines. Setting deadlines for each task will help to keep your most important goals on track.
- Track progress. Regularly track your progress and make adjustments as needed. This will help to ensure that you stay on track and meet your goals.
- Don't be afraid to fail. Failure is a natural part of the innovation process. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.
- Celebrate your successes. Take the time to celebrate your progress, no matter how small. This will help you stay motivated and keep moving forward.
- Keep your goals in sight. Remind yourself why you're pursuing this idea in the first place. What impact do you hope to have?
I hope this has helped you prepare to boost your brainstorming during your Annual Planning session. By following these steps, you can create a productive and engaging environment where your team can generate creative ideas that lead to executing great solutions.
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