Today’s current business climate has shifted many aspects of work online — including team brainstorms.
And that may be for the better.
Research in the journal Computers in Human Behavior finds employees reach more creative solutions and ideas via virtual brainstorms. Unlike in-person meetings, where one extrovert can hog the talking time, Harvard Business Review speculates employees feel more anonymous online, leading more people to speak up and participate in the brainstorm.
“Virtual brainstorming retains the original postulate of traditional brainstorming — that teams can crowdsource creativity by curating the ideas they collectively produce in an informal, free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness, session — but overcoming the main, originally unforeseen, barriers,” HBR author and psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote.
If you’re hosting an online brainstorming meeting, here are some tools and tricks to make sure all team members are engaged and participating.
Some tools, like online whiteboards, help create the virtual version of a team brainstorm meeting.
For a more seamless brainstorming meeting, use tools that exist within the software you already use. Online whiteboards let meeting participants draw and write freely on a shared screen. And since some entrepreneurs previously told Business Insider whiteboards help conceptualize major themes and keeps them focused, teams would benefit from bringing the old-school trick online.
Joris Janssens, a company-culture consultant with the IDEA Consult, developed a step-by-step guide on how to virtually brainstorm with 60 teammates. Aside from getting everyone on a video platform and taking notes, a major part of Janssens’s guide recommended breaking your team into working groups made up of six to eight people.
“In the working groups, several questions needed to be answered,” Janssens wrote on Medium. “The participants were asked to take notes intuitively, and one idea per cell, as if each cell was a sticky note. Different sets of questions were divided over different ‘tabs’ in the sheet, relating to the different stages of their exercise.”
On video meetings, meeting organizers can separate assigned groups into “conference rooms,” or meetings with a handful of participants. Hosts can toggle back and forth between the Zoom conference rooms to check in on conversations.
Janssens recommends organizing the groups ahead of time and preparing questions to work on in a shared document.
Maintain the same ‘office etiquette’ you would in a large, in-person meeting.
Unspoken rules for collaborating in your office include not speaking over someone else, politely listening to presentations, and giving your undivided attention to the task at hand.
Working from home might be more distracting, but you must maintain the same etiquette for brainstorming sessions to remain effective, according to Orduña from Vodafone.
“I would recommend you start with these four areas to lead in an agile virtual environment: create a safe environment to fail and learn fast, use collaboration tools, encourage continuous feedback and deepen your relationships,” Orduña told Inc. “This approach can benefit small businesses up to the CEO of a multinational organization.”
Proper etiquette includes arriving to virtual meetings on time, muting your microphone when you’re not speaking, using your camera, and actually participating in the workshop.