Tue, Oct 12, 2021 @ 09:45 AM Strategy Execution
In our ever-changing world, one thing we can count on is disruption; there are no shortages of problems to solve, opportunities to chase or innovations to propel us into the future. Brainstorming as a team is critical to getting the best thinking from your smartest players. If your team is remote or hybrid in this new world of work, you might struggle to figure out the best way to brainstorm if you're not in the same room together and feeding off the creative energy of the group.
That's where digital brainstorming tools come in. There are many virtual whiteboards and online collaboration tools to help facilitate this important team process. In some ways, brainstorming with digital tools can be even better than the traditional whiteboard in a conference room approach.
You can have as many people participate as needed without worrying about how many chairs fit around your physical table.
You can add ideas to the brainstorm asynchronously so your colleagues in across the globe can contribute while you sleep!
You aren't limited by the size of the board, and you never have to erase it.
You can level the playing field so introverts and extroverts contribute equally.
Digital brainstorming tools are critical for remote and hybrid teams to bridge the collaboration gap, but what's the best way to use them?
Here are some simple steps for effective online brainstorming:
Step 1: Set up for success
As with anything, preparation is key for a great brainstorming session. At the very least, the facilitator should spend time preparing by thinking through the right participants, the best structure of the session, the focused problem to be solved and any ground rules to set. To get the best result, you may also share some homework for the team to do in advance.
Send out the link to your virtual meeting tool of choice (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) and decide which digital tools to deploy for the specific exercise you are planning. If sketching or creating flowcharts is a key element of what you want to do, try out a tool like Freehand, Miro, Jamboard, or even the whiteboard tools that come with some meeting apps. Generally, you want to pick a tool that your team is already comfortable with or that is simple enough to use without any training. You don't want to spend the whole brainstorming session learning how to use a new software application.
For Rhythm users, you have a great, simple virtual brainstorming tool build into your Meetings. If you don't need to draw or create a complex visual, just get all the ideas out there and figure out what to do with them, this is the tool for you. You can create an Ideas Board to capture, categorize, vote, rank and convert ideas to goals.
Step 2: Get all the ideas out there
Once you've picked your tools, structured your session around a specific topic or problem, and sent out your homework, you can focus on facilitating a great meeting. To help get everyone engaged and ideas flowing, I recommend starting with a remote icebreaker. This gets the energy up and sets the tone for everyone to participate.
Next, share any ground rules. Be sure to agree on logistics (video, mute, etc.) as well as rules of engagement for the meeting so everyone understands how to participate and add value to the meeting. It's important to explicitly state norms like "no bad ideas!" or "no criticism" so people feel safe to put all the ideas, even the wacky ones, out there. That's where real creativity and innovation come from.
Explain how the brainstorm will work and demonstrate briefly how to use the collaboration tools you've chosen. Depending on your style and what you are trying to get out of the session, your brainstorm could be highly structured or more free-form chaos. You can choose to follow a methodology like the "6 Thinking Hats," or go with an informal exercise to get as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time.
Our team uses "20 ways to..." a lot as a framework for brainstorming. Ask the group to share pop-corn style or round-robin until you reach 20 ways to solve the problem you're focusing on. You could also ask people to submit their ideas in advance, and use the meeting time to share ideas and add on to them.
Step 3: Evaluate the ideas and agree on the next steps
Once you've gone through your process to get the ideas out of people's heads and into your digital brainstorming tool, you've got to figure out what to do with them. Otherwise, participants may feel that the time spent brainstorming was a waste. You could do this in separate meetings: one to get all the ideas out there and a follow-up to decide which ones to pursue. If this is your approach, communicate that to participants before you start so they know what to expect.
Evaluating the ideas can be challenging. Sometimes a simple card sort can be illuminating. Taking the ideas and organizing them into categories can help you identify patterns and see connections and energy.
You can also vote to see which ideas generate the most excitement from the team; maybe give everyone two minutes to vote on the top 3 ideas and sort by the ideas that got the most votes. Another way to narrow the list of ideas could be to rate the ideas on an impartial scale. In Rhythm, you can rate each idea on Impact and Ability to Execute and plot them on a chart to see which ones might be worth pursuing.
Once you've identified the top ideas, you should facilitate a discussion to agree on which idea(s), if any, to take action on. Sometimes one person is the decision-maker (the team leader, project manager, CEO, etc.), and sometimes the decision is made by the group. It's important to clarify early in the process how the decision will be made and who gets to decide what ideas will be tested first.
Step 4: Move from ideas to action
Here's where some digital brainstorming tools fall short. If you've agreed on a few ideas to try, it's tempting to leave it at that, but we all know that agreeing on doing something and doing it are different things. Particularly if you've captured the ideas in a tool your team uses infrequently, it could be out of sight, out of mind. Moving from ideas to action is where a lot of companies fall flat.
This is where Rhythm's Idea Board really shines as a digital brainstorming tool. Using Rhythm as your digital brainstorming tool will help you move from ideas to execution flawlessly. You can click to convert an idea into a Priority and assign it to an owner, clarify success criteria, and agree on a start and end date. This Priority shows up on the owner's list of goals to update weekly, and the team can collaborate, link supporting goals and keep up with progress over time so nothing slips through the cracks.
Good luck with your next brainstorming session! I hope these steps help get your team's creative juices flowing and effectively move from ideas to action.
Here are additional strategy execution resources to read:
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images