Brainstorming from home? Here’s how to have productive team meetings while collaborating virtually.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

As the pandemic took hold and people left the office, it became even more difficult to have effective and fruitful creative collaboration. Looking ahead into 2021 and beyond, there is still much uncertainty about what normality in the workplace is going to look like.

One thing we can safely predict, however, is that it looks like we aren’t going back to the office in the near future. But what does that mean for creative activities in your business?

It’s no secret that brainstorming, ideation, and creative discussions are immediately more difficult when you aren’t in the same room as your colleagues. We aren’t completely limited when it comes to ‘face-to-face’ interactions over the internet, but there will always be a clear disconnect due to the lack of non-verbal cues and body language. Here are some things that you can do to improve your businesses’ group creative activities over the airwaves.

Limit the attendees

Video call conversations are inseparable from technical issues and limitations like lagging speech that breaks the flow of conversation, dropouts, poor connections, and more. But they can go over smoother and more organically when you limit the participants.

As touched on before, video conferencing can seemingly be great at replicating that face-to-face contact with your team, but there are some crucial elements to natural real-world interactions that can get totally lost. It is said that in some circumstances, the importance of non-verbal (facial) cues makes up 60% of interpersonal communication, with the remaining 40% being verbal. These limitations on your next Zoom call can inhibit everyones’ ability to use the full spectrum of communication with each other.

It has to be said that over this new period of work, many of us have gotten used to a new kind of rhythm and etiquette when it comes to online interaction. Like for example, muting the microphone when others in the call are talking. The problem is that this lack of a real-world rhythm can make it a lot harder to organically share ideas like you would if your team was in the same room. This then becomes a bigger issue when there are a large number of people in one call who either accidentally interrupt each other or don’t get their voice heard at all.

If you have a large group that you want to involve in an online brainstorming session, it may be a better idea to split them into smaller working groups. These groups can then occupy separate calls so that they can share ideas in a more relaxed way. These groups can then each nominate a spokesperson to go into another call to share their respective thoughts. Apps like Zoom have a ‘Breakout Rooms’ feature to make this easier.

Set a time limit

The duration of remote meetings can easily get elongated by the sometimes clunky communication. that can occur with dropouts, background noise, lag, etc. When a brainstorming session goes on for too long, people will likely become fatigued and distracted, which can then lead to everyone veering away from the topic.

It’s important to make sure that you have a topic that is not too large for your team to handle in an hour session. If there is a lot to get through, it may be worth having multiple sessions spread out over days.

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Prepare & share before the meeting.

To avoid confusion and pandemonium in the meeting, make sure that everyone is prepped on the situation before the session begins. This will allow the discussion to be more free-flowing and purposeful. Whether it’s a particular problem that needs addressing or a new kind of product to develop, your virtual meeting needs to have a goal in mind. Much like with any regular brainstorming session, without direction, your team will never produce the results or promote innovation.

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Someone needs to take charge.

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, having a competent facilitator in any kind of brainstorming or creative session is essential if you want to get useful results. Without any kind of facilitation, you will encounter issues like for example, quieter voices not being heard, louder ones taking over, or just a general lack of direction. Over a virtual meeting, these problems inevitably get exacerbated.

That is why you need to assign a person in your group who can keep everyone focused and remind them of the ultimate goal of the brainstorming session. A good facilitator needs to encourage all the members of the group to relax and let their ideas flow, but also provide some structure on who is talking and when. Which especially important in a virtual space.

Make use of a tool to assist with brainstorming virtually.

Although there may be no physical whiteboard that everyone can crowd around, there are now some apps available to suit this purpose such as Miro, Lucidspark, and others. However, the access to a virtual whiteboard still doesn’t guarantee a successful brainstorming session (We wrote a blog on structuring a brainstorming session to yield the best results from your team here.

The best way to get actionable results out of the session is to have a solid way of identifying the top ideas as a group. We are developing Sparklr to allow people in a team to easily evaluate ideas in a constructive way. Check it out here.

Creative thinking made simple, for everyone.