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How To ‘Virtual Brainstorm’

You're not the only person that thought you'd be back brainstorming in the sweaty office by September. Like it or not, we're not going face to face for a while, so here's a few tips you can implement for a better 'virtual brainstorm'.

You’re not the only person that thought you’d be back brainstorming in the sweaty office by last September.

Here at House of Coco we too miss a room full of tired people and coffee fumes. Getting the formula right for a successful brainstorm has been under debate since ideas began. Now, we have the distance and screen to contend with too.

Like it or not, we’re not going face to face for a while, so here’s a few tips you can implement for a better ‘virtual brainstorm’.

It’s Your Meeting

This is your brainstorm. Think of yourself as the ringleader and conductor. It’s your job to select the right people, set up the call, guide the flow, and keep the conversation flowing.

Invite Only

The first step you need to take is to carefully curate your ideas crew. We’re now holding all of our calls online, so limit your numbers to a maximum of seven (including you). A crowded video call is frustrating at the best of times, let alone when we need everyone to participate.

Make sure you choose the right people. An even mix of creatives and others works best. It’s not always necessary to have the Account Manager in your ideas meeting. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s worth leaving them out.

Set Up Your Call

You’ve got six faces looking at you for direction. Whatever style of brainstorm you have chosen the most important thing to establish first is trust.

Everyone on your call needs to understand that all of their ideas are worth saying. However, they also need to know that you may brush over their idea or not acknowledge it, nonetheless, it has positively contributed.

Once you’ve established the format of your brainstorm, you should break the ice. A great way of getting the quiet ones to trust the room is to get a joke from everyone.

Brainstorm Style

My personal favourite style of brainstorm is one that psychologists call ‘burstiness’.

Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist tells us “Burstiness is like the best moments in improv jazz. Someone plays a note, someone else jumps in with a harmony, and pretty soon, you have a collective sound that no one planned. Most groups never get to that point, but you know burstiness when you see it.”

So, for me, burstiness is that magical meeting where people are just throwing anything into the middle of the room. Some of it lands and grows as other people add to it. Some of it will stay in the air, maybe someone will pick it up and develop it or it’ll float away. This style of ideas meeting truly is a collaborative approach to creative that everyone has a part in.

In a nutshell, present the brief and just let them go wild. I like it hectic and chaotic, which is why your set up is so important.

When To Talk

Whilst they have a place in formal meetings of ten or more people, can we just do away with a ‘hands up’ approach to brainstorms, please? When video calling some people think it’s acceptable to sit with their hand up whilst you’re in your flow. It’s a virtual interruption and it needs to stop. You wouldn’t sit in a small face to face brainstorm or meeting with your hand up ready to talk, would you?

As grown, professional adults you would like to think that we know when to add to a conversation. You do these things already, you gesture that you are about to speak by leaning forward or opening your mouth. You can even put your actual hand up when there is a break in the conversation.

Please don’t put your virtual hand up whilst others are speaking. You will be heard, don’t worry.

Wrap It Up

If this is your brainstorm, then you must either be the team leader or the person doing to actual work. With that in mind, it is up to you to wrap up the ideas. Before you end the call, just ask individuals if there was anything they wanted to add. That may lead to the best idea of the day!

Once you’re all bone-dry of ideas, remind everyone of the great concept that you came up with as a team. Thank everyone for their time and maybe instigate some small talk before hitting that glorious red button till next time.

Oh… and don’t worry about waving. It’s not embarrassing to do it anymore. It’s cute, go for a wave goodbye.

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Penny Lee

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