Fun, Effective Remote Brainstorming Sessions

Lock-down measures are set to continue and many of us are still working from home - and could be for the foreseeable future. We need to find new ways to make meetings that used to take place in the office work remotely.

Brainstorming sessions are usually a regular occurrence in digital, and present particular challenges. How can we harness the same creative energy when we're screen-sharing remotely?

Brainstorming sessions usually take place in the office pod, lounging on bean bags, or in a meeting room or break out area, often in front of a whiteboard, to spark all those wonderful creative ideas and quotes to come rushing out. When working remotely that sense of interaction is harder to recreate, but not impossible.

Distance need not stop you from coming together and forging ideas as a team. Here are some things to try.

Agree the topic prior to the session starting

To prevent time being wasted reviewing what the purpose of the session is, make sure the team know what you want to discuss in advance, and have a set agenda.

This also gives people a chance to think and get those creative cogs whirling; hopefully they will come to the meeting with quality ideas. It is crucial that everyone has their own ideas and questions so you can get stuck straight into the team brainstorm. Having a clear plan will lead to a clear and concise session.

Give your team a time frame

Working remotely means that you may not be aware of your colleagues' schedules or daily deadlines.  Daily KPIs/tasks still need to be  set and achieved, so please don't push into your colleagues' personal time: you don't want to make the meeting a chore.

Keep your team focused and engaged by making sure everyone is OK with the time frame and that the arrangement works for all. Longer meetings are never more productive than shorter ones, and you want people to look forward to the next one, rather than dread it.

Take advantage of the digital tools at your disposal

If you use a whiteboard you can still do this by using some amazing tools.

One such is - a creative platform that allows employees to share ideas in a virtual room. Other tools such as Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Docs, Slack, and RemoteHQ all have ways people can interact. See which one (or ones) work for you!

Consider changing normal procedures to foster creativity (and team-building) 

Smaller groups?

Think how you want your people to interact. If you have a team of ten consider breaking them up into five teams of two (it's shown that people brainstorm better in smaller teams). This way they can collaborate in small groups and then present results to the rest of the team.

Unlikely pairs?

If you pair people who do not usually work together this can foster team building.

Try mind mapping

Set up your central question at the centre of an online whiteboard. Invite your team to build out from it with their ideas or thoughts.

Apply a bit of 'time pressure'

This is sometimes the missing ingredient in creativity. Give your colleagues a limited time to come up with as many ideas as possible.

Make it fun

Encourage humour and an environment where no-one is afraid to say anything for fear of sounding silly. Funny - even silly - is powerful, because funny things often lead to brilliant things and laughter stimulates people.

Encourage friendly competition

Pin each colleague's name next to their respective ideas on a virtual whiteboard and circle the winning ideas with different colour markers.

Mix it up

Why not invite colleagues from different teams? This can lead to fresh new ideas, as well as giving you an idea of what other people outside your main circle are thinking. And, when people are working remotely, it means you still have inter-departmental interaction.

One facilitator at a time!

Make sure you only have one facilitator, to take charge, keep the meeting flowing, promoting positivity and sharing ideas. 

Make sure everyone gets - and gives - feedback

Share ALL the ideas, and encourage everyone to provide their thoughts on all ideas. This should be made part of your scheduled agenda. Try to make this visual using your online apps. Make sure that everyone feels that you respect them and their ideas and that both are important to you.

Finally, your facilitator should also ask for feedback from every person separately after the meeting, to make sure it works for everyone.

Happy brainstorming!