How To Do Remote Ideation Right: All Of The Above

Some people find it challenging to brainstorm remotely, but in my opinion, there are times when it is more effective.

I’ve previously written on the need to include people of all personalities in ideation sessions. However, teachers should remember that just as different people learn differently (visual, aural, and kinesthetic), other people also come up with ideas.

Consider the distinction between extroverted and introverted attendees, for instance. You must offer both types of people a secure environment. The majority of regular ideation sessions appear to favor extroverts only. I’ve recently seen examples of the best brainstorming techniques where the participants stand at a board, shout out their ideas, quickly write them on sticky notes, and then slap them on the board. While people comfortable with loud environments will thrive here, the room’s introverts may find it challenging. As a result, you might not get the response you were hoping for.

Another illustration would be team-wide design thinking brainstorming sessions with management present. For political reasons, it’s possible that you won’t get the most intelligent, most intriguing, or most disruptive ideas from the group because they’re frightened to say something that the boss would enjoy.

One of the engineers in a brainstorming session I led was so irritated by the various levels of management in his company that his main suggestion was to “fire all middle-management!” There were undoubtedly many more who could have been reluctant to speak up for fear of retaliation, even if he may have been the most outspoken about it. It is uncertain how many other team members agreed that there was a problem.

Due to the lockdown, we’ve been forced to use remote design thinking brainstorms. This immediately gives introverts and those fearful of criticism for opinions that are too radical to consider a possibility a greater chance to be heard.

Depending on the customer, we utilize different technologies. Typically, we use a Google drawing board, while we occasionally use a shared Word document when additional protection is needed. The meeting is conducted as usual, but you set some time for quiet individual and group thinking. Allowing introverts and extroverts to participate remotely levels the playing field because extroverts are likelier to shout out their ideas on an online sticky note. The introverts, meanwhile, can type them out softly.

The introverts can even mute the shouting extroverts during the session if they become too annoying. The introverts are now covered. We have discovered that anonymous submission is effective for folks concerned about management retaliation. Make it possible for people to submit ideas anonymously (possibly by letting them change the color of the sticky notes to the color of their choice; for instance, my sticky note might be blue, while others might be purple or yellow, but those who want to submit their ideas anonymously could use grey).

As a result, online meetings are considerably more inclusive than in-person ones, which could result in more fantastic ideas. In addition, people who previously might not have been able to attend and contribute because of travel costs may now be able to do so.

I can still clearly remember a situation where we conducted a fantastic old-school design thinking brainstorming session with a distant office over the phone. The people in that office came up with more exciting ideas during our one-hour session than in five internal sessions at the client’s corporate headquarters. Being out in the field and near the clients gave them a unique, helpful perspective that dramatically increased the company’s worth after the ideas were filtered and put into practice.