Brainstorming is a useful tool to organise thoughts and ideas. With advanced technology of the 21st century, businesses utilise online brainstorming when organising ideas for a business, improving a product, or solving a specific problem.
With the surge of remote work, online brainstorming can be an effective way to promote creativity and teamwork. In this article, we will share some tools and tips for online brainstorming sessions.
What is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a technique that stimulates creative thinking and solves a specific problem by generating ideas. It can be an individual or team practice. Nowadays, it can be done online, so it’s a great tool for remote work environments.
Brainstorming consists of generating ideas spontaneously without being judged. We will focus on quantity and not quality, so the purpose is to gather as many ideas as possible.
What is Online Brainstorming?
The technique is the same, but we use online applications or tools to have a brainstorming session remotely. These tools can be online whiteboards, video conferencing apps, or specifically designed tools to brainstorm online.
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Can Brainstorming Be Done Alone?
The answer is yes, it can. Although it’s considered a group activity, brainstorming alone typically works better for introverts.
Though, by brainstorming alone, some of the advantages it has as a group activity can be lost. For instance, having a diverse group of people with different expertise can provide very different perspectives of the problem that no one else has thought of. This brings fresh thoughts to the table. Although, don’t let the absence of a group discourage you from trying this technique.
If you are someone who wants to brainstorm alone because of social anxiety or introvertedness, there is an alternative for you that is arguably better than doing it alone.
A variation of brainstorming, called “silent brainstorming”, requires that participants write down as many ideas as possible by themselves rather than talking. In this case, the group can decide whether to share ideas anonymously or not. There’s no need to speak up in a group. This has the benefit of a distraction-free environment and equal opportunities for everyone in the group. Participants think about new ideas without having someone take the lead.
How to Have an Online Brainstorming Session
You start by choosing the brainstorming technique that best fits your situation. Then, you can set up the environment for an effective online session.
According to the creator of brainstorming, Alex F. Osborne, two principles are crucial for an effective session: avoid judgement and aim for quantity. On the same note, he established 4 rules:
- Go for quantity
- Withhold criticism
- Welcome wild ideas
- Combine and improve ideas
You will focus on getting as many ideas from the participants as you can, no matter how crazy they sound. To achieve good results, you should address one specific question or problem to be solved. Then, depending on the method you chose, all ideas are written down without criticism, and later filtered and evaluated.
That filtering phase can involve all the participants, or just a couple of people. It can also be divided into one or more sessions. Nonetheless, having one session in which everyone participates in the selection and refinement of ideas can boost team morale. They will feel like an important part of the group.
Originally, the brainstorming sessions conducted by Osborne were made up of 12 people. They include both experts in the field and people who are new to the focus of the session. That way you get a diverse team and more points of view from different backgrounds.
When you have online brainstorming sessions, remember to have a whiteboard or screen where everyone can see the question or problem to solve. Don’t forget to set a time limit visible to everyone. After gathering all the ideas, categorise them or even combine those that are similar.
What To Avoid
There are things that you should avoid in brainstorming sessions, online or not. One of them is not being clear to the participants. Either by not setting the problem correctly or not explaining what they are expected to do in the session. It is important to set rules and explain the technique that you will be using, otherwise, misunderstandings occur.
Even more important, do not let judgement sneak into the brainstorming session. If the participants feel they are being criticised or judged, they might stop sharing their unique ideas. From which, you could get the “winning” idea.
Be careful to not let someone dominate the session. There will be many types of personalities in a group, some more extroverted than others. So there’s a risk of someone trying to take the lead and impose their ideas above others. That might result in participants focusing on one idea and not generating various solutions.
Since the creation of brainstorming, many brainstorming techniques have arisen. There are the original 4 variations that you can use in your online sessions:
- Individual Brainstorming
- Directed brainstorming
- Structured Brainstorming
- Reverse Brainstorming
From there, there are plenty of techniques that you can install, some ideas are:
- Disney method. This allows a team to discuss an issue from 4 different perspectives. Spectators, Dreamers, Realists, and Critics. It is similar to another method called the Six Hats Method.
- Hot potato. A classical game where participants pass an object (the hot potato) among the group. Those holding the hot potato have to say an idea as fast as they can. Many crazy ideas can be expected, but it is mainly about quantity over quality.
- SCAMPER. An acronym that uses questions to approach ideas from different angles. It stands for: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Purpose, Eliminate and Reverse.
- Rapid ideation. It works with a time limit, in which each participant writes as many ideas as possible. Finally, the group votes for the best idea.
- Step Ladder. This technique can work wonders in a video call. It starts with two members of the group discussing the problem. Then, a third participant joins the conversation, and so on. This way, everyone gets to contribute to the discussion.
Online Tools for a Brainstorming Session
Some online tools that can help you in your online brainstorming sessions are:
- Specialised Brainstorming tool: Ibrainstorm, padlet (anonymous ideas), popplet, brainstormer (ideas to start from).
Advantages of Brainstorming
The main advantage of brainstorming is free of judgement. You can come up with numerous ideas. Many of them won’t fit your purpose, but one of them might be a great, innovative idea that you wouldn’t have thought of if you were under the pressure of coming up with just one great idea.
There are many advantages to implementing online brainstorming sessions in your business. For example, coming together as a team with a common goal: to find the solution to a problem. It facilitates each participant’s critical thinking, making it a very dynamic and stimulating task. Also, it is a way of team building, as participants learn from each other while bonding.
Having a diverse group brings more perspectives, and many of them might bring something new to the group. Everyone has different backgrounds, areas of expertise, interests, and motivations. This makes the brainstorming process richer than if all participants had the same perspective.
Brainstorming is a remote-work-friendly tool to come up with ideas and solutions. It brings people together and can be a very useful method for your business as an entrepreneur. With a diverse group of people involved, and a judgement-free environment, it’s possible to generate many innovative ideas.
Explore the different techniques of online brainstorming and discover which suits your needs the best. Then implement it in your business.