Published on June 24, 2020
Read time 8 minutes
How to Lead a Successful Virtual Brainstorming Session?
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Long the pandemic, businesses were relying on virtual teams and applications to take care of their work processes. However, it was done in moderation because remote working did not become a “fad” then.
Ever since COVID-19 quarantine and lockdown were set in place, businesses had to take up virtual brainstorming sessions, remote channels, and distance working to survive. Of course, with any new change, new requirements also come into effect.
This write-up details how virtual brainstorming can help your company to push through the cracks. The study is not conclusive, but we sure as hell think that some of the tips to virtual brainstorming are important to ensure optimal business growth in the near future.
Why is Brainstorming Important?
In today’s world, where there are so many changing variables regarding everything related to business, we should never be so naïve to think that whatever we plan is going to turn out exactly like that. There are bound to be some complications and obstacles.
This is where brainstorming comes in the mix.
Brainstorming whether it is done with a physical on-site team or with a virtual team using different communication applications, can be very beneficial for a business because you are planning all of the future activities that the business is going to perform.
Many of the managers all over the world even now are not so warm towards the concept of brainstorming because they think that using this method to plan out the activities of the business will make them lose control over the whole thing and give that control to the employees.
This is where they are wrong as this process, not only solidifies their position as a leader but helps the team to be as creative as they can be which ultimately unlocks their true potential and brings immense value to the company.
Let’s look at some important points regarding why the companies need Brainstorming more than ever:
- Lots of People, Lots of Ideas: When it comes to brainstorming, the more the merrier. Why? Well, when you gather more and more people who have some part in the development of the project, they are bound to get creative and gather many ideas for you so that the company, the manager, and they can benefit from those ideas.
Make sure to gather people from different departments so that they can come up with diverse ideas about how to perform the future activities of the company.
- A Permanent Log of Ideas: When you host a virtual brainstorming session, one of the best things that you achieve in that session is a permanent list of ideas and suggestions from your colleagues about how to approach a specific problem or issue regarding a single project or the workings of an enterprise.
It is that list which you can consult later and make your life easier while making major decisions about the future of the company.
- Team Buy-In: One other major benefit of hosting a regular or a virtual brainstorming is that the team members you invite to this session are going to feel valued. They will feel appreciated and heard. This is an incredible thing to happen for your company as good employees are the most important resource a company can have.
This blog will help you find the best brainstorming tools:
Advantages of Remote Brainstorming
There are a lot of benefits when it comes to virtual brainstorming. And it would feel like a surprise to many of the managers out there, but virtual brainstorming should not be seen as a second choice or a last reserve. It is a vital component of remote project management that we need to acknowledge.
Let’s look at some of the many benefits there are of remote brainstorming:
- If you have attended a brainstorming session in your company, you might’ve experienced a problem which is the possibility of all of the members present at the meeting, talking at once. This problem is easily solvable in a remote session by switching off the speakers.
- Another hindrance regarding brainstorming sessions is that a real-time session requires everyone to submit a handwritten suggestion that will be passed along and then gathered together to be stored while on the other hand, in a remote session, you can type in your ideas at once and they can be stored in seconds. So, you can save a lot of time on that.
- There are a lot of applications that can help you conduct many different types of meetings and interactions among the team members, so you just have to find the right fit to conduct your remote brainstorming session which has additional features like attaching content to the virtual brainstorming session board so that you can make your team understand you better.
- When choosing an application to conduct your virtual brainstorming session, you need to make sure that the application you select has a selection of templates that you can choose from to host different kinds of virtual brainstorming sessions like Mood Boards, Mind Mapping, Venn Diagrams, and Team Charters.
- One thing you need to remind all of the participants of the remote brainstorming session is that they should choose a unique part of the board to make their notes so that every single member of the team gets to participate equally and no one is left behind.
- Many of the people in our work lives are quite shy and they don’t like to stand in front of hundreds of people. This is where remote or virtual brainstorming is a life-saver for them. By eliminating the human interaction part of the whole shebang, you are helping the introverts of the group to speak out through their words and share their ideas like any other person.
- The application you choose for your brainstorming sessions should have the ability to provide a limitless board for the session so that you don’t run out of space in the middle of the meeting.
How to Set-up any Virtual Brainstorming session for Remote Teams?
There are five steps that you can use to run a successful virtual brainstorming session for your remote teams. They are:
1. Use Collaborative Applications and Technology
A brainstorming session is an intensely challenging interaction among all of the team members as they have to think and produce to the whole crowd, valuable ideas that are very necessary to bring value to the company.
So, it’s only logical that we use the appropriate collaboration applications and technology to facilitate such an event.
You might’ve attended a virtual meeting and would’ve been annoyed at the fact that you couldn’t see the face of the people that were in the meeting with you, which resulted in all of you speaking together or none at all, just because you couldn’t see the other person.
This is why facial expressions and body language are a major part of a virtual collaboration of any sort and to make sure that you don’t clash with the members again, you need to have a video system set-up so that everyone can see each other while they hear each other.
One thing you need to make sure is that this video system should be dynamic so that any remote callers can join the meeting and follow along with the whole conversation easily and submit their input instead of waiting for hours for their turn.
2. Email the Topic and an Overview of the Goal that You want to Achieve via Virtual Brainstorming Before the Session
If you want to have a thorough brainstorming session that is precise impactful and fast-paced so that you don’t waste anyone’s time, then you need to make sure that you send the topic and a basic idea about the goal you want to achieve through this brainstorming session, via email before the actual session starts.
This will make sure that you are making your team aware of the issue at hand so that when they finally come and join the session, they would already have some ideas and queries about what you want to do in the session. This would save up a lot of time which can be used somewhere else.
Another benefit of this is that if they have already written down all of their ideas and insights regarding the issue, you don’t even have to give them a few minutes to write stuff down, you can go straight to the group discussion.
3. Set a Proper Time and Date for the Session
Speaking of not wasting time, one other thing you need to make sure while hosting a virtual brainstorming session is to set a proper time, date and agenda for the meeting that you are about to have.
You need to be respectful of everyone’s time and as it’s a virtual session you need to confirm every member’s availability before you set out a time and date for the event so that you can expect more than 80% of them to show up and participate.
This can often get quite hectic as many of the companies that have remote teams working for them have employees in different continents. Choosing a specific time and date to gather everyone is a long process that involves several collaboration efforts.
In this scenario what you can do is that you can put the brainstorming session into two parts with two different groups.
You can increase the groups if you have many employees that can’t be available at the same time as everyone else. This will help ease the pressure off of you and you can still have a productive virtual brainstorming session.
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4. Appoint a Facilitator
As a manager, you can’t always be the bad guy and take the heat for being someone that is always strict and keeps everyone on track. You need to appoint someone from within the employees so that they can get everyone back on track if any side conversations start and the employees procrastinate.
You need to make sure that this person that you are appointing as the facilitator is fearless and not someone who backs down from a challenge. They should be always ready to speak their mind, but they should also be thoughtful of everyone else’s ability to speak.
Check this out:
5. Send a Follow-Up Email
Once the meeting is over, you need to make sure that everyone has adequate knowledge of everything that transpired in that brainstorming session.
For that to happen, you need to send a follow-up email to every single attendee attaching every meeting note and check-list that was created in the session.
This will help them revise everything that they shared, learned, and talked on, during the session.
What are the Virtual Brainstorming Tools that You can Use for Remote Sessions?
Here is a complete collection of different tools that you can use to run a successful Virtual Brainstorming session.
Virtual Brainstorming Software
Virtual Brainstorming Hardware
Document Brainstorming Tools
Visual Brainstorming Tools
Over to You!
Having discussed virtual brainstorming strategies for remote businesses, we would like to hear from you. The aforementioned tips are not a ‘means to an end’; there is always room for improvement.
What’s more important is that a project manager should improvise wherever he/she deems fit. Since the business workflow is rapidly changing due to the current pandemic situation, the old-school PM workflow methodologies don’t always apply.
Therefore, observe, adapt, and deploy for long term success.
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