8 tips for holding a brainstorming session remotely

Wendy Lyons PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Need to brainstorm a creative solution for a business challenge you’re facing, but everyone on your team is working from home?

Good news: Fresh ideas, breakthrough thinking and creativity don’t have geographic limits.

Here are eight pro tips about how to brainstorm remotely — and be more efficient and productive, wherever in the world your team is.

Use the right brainstorming tools

Conference calls don’t always cut it. Creative thinking is visual, so it helps to have a video brainstorming solution. There are many collaborative tools and technologies designed to bring your team together in the same virtual space. Here are a few virtual brainstorming tools to consider:

• Video conferencing programs: Google Hangouts Meet, GoToMeeting, MeetingRoom.io, Microsoft Skype for Business and Zoom.

• Virtual document tools: Confluence, Dropbox Paper and Google Docs.

• Visual brainstorming tools: Miro, Mural BS and RemoteHQ.

Define a clear, specific, measurable goal

This step is even more crucial when not everyone is in the same room.

Consider these examples: A list of 10 names for your company blog. Three potential themes for this year’s annual meeting. Five ways to roll out a new product to your dealers. Share the goal of the brainstorming session and any relevant background information with each attendee — either by email or via a shared virtual document (such as a Google doc) at least 24 hours before you collaborate remotely.

Invite the right people

Select a facilitator with a deep knowledge of the challenge you’re brainstorming around. This person shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and keep everyone on topic. Consider having a second person in charge of taking notes on a shared virtual document. Then, invite no more than six participants to your remote brainstorming session to give everyone the chance to contribute and be heard.

Stick to your schedule

Watch time zones so you are considerate of all participants’ work hours. Start the remote brainstorm session promptly and set a hard stop.

It’s easy to be distracted in a home office, so make the most of the group’s time by setting the ground rules up front — ask everyone not to engage in side chats or work on other tasks. Let them know that the goal is important, their contribution is valued and you’ve got just a set amount of time to generate solid, workable ideas.

Ask participants to bring at least one idea

Good places to start: Look at ideas that have been successfully implemented in the past and brainstorm ways to build on those. Research what other brands are doing and think of ways to do them better. Then, during the remote brainstorm session, go around and ask each person to share, let everyone digest the options and discuss from there.

Capture all ideas on a shared virtual document

Record each idea that bubbles up — with no judgment. Being able to see the group’s thinking will help keep everyone focused and on task. Encourage participants to sketch out their ideas, shoot a picture of them and upload them to a shared drive.

Narrow down the best ideas and share next steps

Do a round-robin and ask everybody to briefly explain their rationale for their top picks. Or have them put their name next to their favorites in the shared virtual document.

Thank everyone for their time and let them know the plan for moving the group’s ideas forward.

Follow up

Did one of the ideas from your brainstorm session get selected for your company or client’s new product? Be sure everyone hears about it and is congratulated. You might even share a virtual toast to remote collaboration and creative genius.