A Quick Team Guide to Virtual Brainstorming

Mar 11

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The pandemic feels like it’s gone on forever at this point, so it’s not surprising that many companies are experiencing communication challenges and, in some cases, full-on breakdowns within their teams. As a result, it’s easy to shy away from online meetings. Instead, switch out unnecessary, protocol-driven Zoom check-ins for powerful, collaborative sessions with your team members. Virtual brainstorming is critical for uncovering gold-mines of inspirational solutions to your company’s problems, fostering community, and above all, during this time: keeping your employees motivated. Today, we’ve laid out four simple steps you can follow to connect and engage with your group creatively online.

4 Steps to Winning At Virtual Brainstorming

Before diving in, remember to prepare for your meetings properly in advance! None of these tips will do much good without an effective meeting setup, such as preparing an agenda and selecting the right collaborating tools. Once is everything is good to go, follow these steps for a stress-free, creative session: 

Step One: Engage Your E-Attendees From the Get-Go

Start with an attention-grabbing introduction to your meeting, where you clearly lay out the workshop’s objectives. It doesn’t have to be complicated. For instance, use your screen to share a funny (if appropriate) video clip related to the core issue at hand. You can also use Zoom’s whiteboard feature to draw simple diagrams. The point is to warm up everyone’s minds and get creative juices flowing right away for the best virtual brainstorming.

Step Two: Pick a Unique, Interactive Brainstorming Technique 

Use tried and true idea-generation techniques that will encourage even the shyest of team members to pipe up. There are loads to choose from, including:

The Brainwriting Method

This usually starts with one person who writes down a few ideas on a piece of paper in a short time period (typically five minutes). The individual then passes the piece of paper to the next person, who adds their ideas, and so on. For your virtual brainstorming session, replicate this exercise using Google Docs or an online brainwriting tool!

The Reverse-Thinking Method

This plays off of the human tendency to engage in negative thought patterns more easily than positive ones. Instead of having everyone come up with optimistic solutions, ask questions that encourage participants to think of a situation’s worst possible scenarios. For example: 

Q: “How can we frustrate our newest customers as much as possible?”

A: “We can ensure super long wait-times when handling their inquiries about our products.”

The opposite of that answer (and others) might be the beginning of a winning idea!

The Word-Association Method

Start with one central word and display it on your virtual whiteboard. Then, encourage each team member to voice the first related idea that comes to mind in a popcorn format. Write each new thought down and link associated points to create a visual map of potential strategies. 

Tip: Keep in mind the diverse and sometimes opposing personalities in your team. Do your best to pick a brainstorming technique that caters to introverts, extroverts, and everyone else in-between!

Step Three: Vote on the Best Ideas

Now that you have some ideas to work with, it’s time to settle on the most effective ones. If your team is small enough and the voting process is relatively straightforward, feel free to have folks raise their hands, middle-school style. However, you may need a more sophisticated method for larger teams and more complex issues. Use Zoom’s polling feature or online tools team decision-making tools like PollUnit for a more interactive experience.

Step Four: End on a Positive Note

After almost a year of transitioning to virtual meetings, video calls have become a significant energy-sapper for many workers. Make sure to demonstrate your appreciation for your employees’ participation! 

On that note, let’s take a quick look at Zoom fatigue and how to deal with it. 

Navigating Zoom Fatigue

According to this article by Remote Control: 

“Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat… Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy.” 

These challenges make it difficult for employees to reach peak productivity during and after meetings, so it’s critical to be aware of them well before brainstorming sessions. Try these ideas to help everyone get through smoothly:

Prepare Shareable Information in Advance

Create handouts, slides or other information your attendees can easily download. Doing so will save them the trouble of taking lots of notes during the meeting, which may be exhausting on top of everything else.

Take Frequent Breaks

Schedule breaks at regular intervals to provide mini-recharge sessions. Encourage your attendees to stretch, grab refreshments, or perform any other refreshing activities needed. 

Be Flexible

Allow your team members the option to turn off their cameras for portions of the brainstorming exercise that don’t require discussion. If they don’t need to be on screen, don’t force them.

Lastly, we suggest limiting video chats only to those necessary. For example, creative brainstorming, virtual experiences, and social happy hours are all great for video. Things like catch-ups, 1:1 syncs, and team briefs are all low video priority in our book!

Speaking of Virtual Experiences and Social Happy Hours…

Check out our platform to explore the various team-building and social activities we offer. For instance, organize an Improv Team Building Workshop to get your coworkers comfortable with each other or a fun Game Night as a reward for a hard day’s brainstorming efforts!

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