Brainstorming — whereby a project team attacks a problem by spontaneously thinking up potential solutions (no matter how ridiculous) and seeing what sticks — isn’t as easy as one would think. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult collaborative activities to carry out. What makes brainstorming even more challenging for some is having to do it at a distance — through tele-conference or video-conference.
Working at a distance with others is a reality for many people today. In fact, virtual teams have become the norm in many companies. This means that people need to find effective and innovative ways to brainstorm at a distance to achieve results.
If you are looking for better ways to brainstorm with others at a distance, I highly recommend that you check out Phone Meetings — Good, Bad, or Ugly from IWCC (Imagine a World with Clear Communications). In the blog, you’ll find an innovative way of brainstorming at a distance.
IWCC recommends a three step approach, as described below:
Step One: Set the Scene
- Explain that you value everyone’s input and are going to ask them to tele-brainstorm.
- Ask each individual (or group at one location) to grab a pen/pencil and a pad of paper.
- Clarify that you will be collecting each individual’s (or group’s) ideas at the end of this exercise.
- Clearly define the topic they will brainstorm.
Step Two: Brainstorm
- Give them 60 seconds (no more than two minutes) to brainstorm on paper. (Ring your bell, buzzer, alarm, or gong to stop the activity.)
- Give them 60 seconds to place a checkmark beside their top two (or three) ideas. (Ring your bell, buzzer, alarm, or gong to stop the activity.)
Step Three: Collect the Ideas
- Call each individual or team by name and ask for their top two (or three) ideas. Record their responses, placing a checkmark beside any idea each time it is repeated.
- Read the list of ideas out loud and emphasize any that are repeated.
- Thank them for their input and clarify how you will use this list.
- Record the list and next steps in the minutes.
Making brainstorming a regular part of a project team’s problem solving protocol should increase its effectiveness over time as people get used to how it should flow. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves with what our brains can come up with when we ignore the censorship process and just let the ideas pour out of us. Do you use brainstorming (either in person or at a distance) regularly to get things done? Let us know how you utilize this concept within the framework of your “business as usual” way of working in the comments below!