Benefits unique to online brainstorming include the following:
Undercover mode: It’s a fact that some team members may not be that comfortable sharing their ideas because of the fear of being criticized. With online brainstorming, depending on the brainstorming software you’re using, your team members would be able to contribute anonymously.
Time and place independent: The traditional method would require your team to meet in person at the same place, at the same time. This might not always be convenient. Meanwhile, this doesn’t apply to online brainstorming.
An unlimited number of participants: Since the session is virtual, the number of participants you can invite is limitless. Unlike in traditional brainstorming, you’re not bound with how many people the venue could accommodate.
Simultaneous sharing: Your team can pitch in their ideas anytime inspiration strikes. This is important since there are moments when good ideas enter our minds unexpectedly.
Cloud-based: Because the ideas and discussions are saved on a virtual board, you can refer to them later instead of racking your brains about the conversations that took place that could potentially lead to really good ideas.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are other benefits exclusive only to using the right platform. For example, using Accept Mission will allow you to integrate gamification elements that could increase engagement during the session.
How to Organize an Online Brainstorm Session
Although the method of how a virtual brainstorming session is conducted is quite different than the traditional way, the preparations you need to make are more or less the same. The only difference here is the steps that involve technology.
Here is how to organize an online brainstorm session:
Step 1: Define the Problem or Theme
The first step is to define the problem or theme that the online brainstorming session will tackle. To make it easier, try to frame the brainstorm subject into a clear and concise question.
When choosing a theme, try to determine whether or not what you’re tackling is actually a problem or an opportunity.
In our book on how to organize innovation, one of the things mentioned is how most people seem to come up with better ideas when solving a problem compared to when they’re simply tacking a good opportunity.
This could help you manage expectations beforehand.
Step 2: Determine Which Brainstorming Technique to Use
The next step is to determine the technique you want to use to facilitate the brainstorming session. Consider the problem or question that you want to tackle and what you hope to accomplish by the end of the session.
There are various brainstorming techniques that you could use with online brainstorming like:
Once you decide on a technique, it’s time to select the best tool for the job. If this is your first time holding a virtual brainstorming session, note that there are a lot of tools out there that you can use.
For example, let’s say you have decided to organize a rapid ideation where participants write as many ideas as possible under a time limit.
Using Accept Mission, you can either create an idea box — which is something like an online idea dropbox — or start an ideation mission and enable the participants to submit as many ideas as possible with an undercover identity.
Step 3: Select the Participants
Once you have the theme pinned down, it’s time to select the participants. Make sure to invite experts to gain better insight into the theme. Don’t discount non-experts too. They could help the team gain new perspectives on how to tackle the question or problem at hand.
Take note of the number of participants you can invite using the tool that you want to use. It’s quite possible to invite everyone you can think of in any tool. However, the tier that you’re currently in may have some limitations on the number of participants allowed.
Step 4: Set up the “Playing Field”
The next step is to set up the playing field where you will organize the online brainstorming session. This includes writing a title and description for the session, setting up the team size, and providing more information for the participants.
For example, let’s say you’re using Accept Mission to host the session…
To save time, you don’t have to do everything from scratch. There are all sorts of templates you can use to start a “mission”, which is a gamified term for a campaign, as you can see from the image below.
Then, you can use the mission builder to tweak the individual settings of the round including the duration, the time, the brainstorm type, the main question (or theme), the description, and many more advanced fields.
Naturally, you could still tweak the general settings for the mission and change the mission title, description, team size, department, and more. This is also where you can enable the “undercover agents” feature and let your participants contribute anonymously.
Step 5: Invite Your Participants
Now that you have set up the playing field, it’s time to invite your participants to the session. It’s a good practice to give them some contextual knowledge about the theme so they won’t show empty-handed.
As for sending the invitation, the brainstorming tool that you will be using may have an invitation feature you can use. You can also use other avenues as well like email and sending a private message.
In Accept Mission, this can easily be done by either adding the name (for pre-existing participants in the platform) or adding the email to the list.
As you can see from the image above, we actually call participants “agents” in line with the gamification elements that the platform brings. Participation in the missions could earn them experience points and rewards that could entice them to engage even further.
Step 6: Manage the Brainstorming Session
After setting everything up and inviting your participants, all that’s left to do now is to manage the session. The important thing to remember at this stage is to strike a balance between enabling your participants to ideate and guiding them during the activity.
Some of the good practices you can implement include:
Avoiding criticism – Since the point of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible, not all ideas will be realistic. Avoid evaluating people’s ideas at this stage and focus on building on each other’s ideas.
Appreciating all ideas (even the unusual ones) – Welcoming strange ideas during the session could help spark inspiring conversations and generate great ideas. Appreciate all ideas given without judgment.
Asking questions or giving prompts – There will be times when the conversation suddenly stops. Asking questions or giving prompts could drive further thinking and generate even more ideas.
Keep in mind that the focus of brainstorming should be on collecting as many ideas as possible. Selection and review of ideas will come after the session. The more ideas that you have, the better chances you have at finding one or two great ones.
It’s also beneficial to make use of gamification elements to entice your participants to engage harder. Use timers and deadlines to create a sense of urgency. Make the session more effective by stimulating a sense of collaboration between the participants.
Next Steps After Brainstorming
After the brainstorming session, it’s time to manage all the ideas collected. This is where you group and categorize ideas to make them easier to review later on.
What comes next is selecting the best ideas. In this part, you have to define what composes a good idea. It’s on these criteria that you base which ideas are worth pursuing and which ones need improvement.
Once you have selected the best ideas, it’s time to place them in the innovation roadmap and turn them into innovation projects. At this point, you will have to include senior stakeholders as they will also have to review the project proposals.
Next steps: Fortunately, there’s a way for you to cruise through these steps. That’s by using the Accept Mission platform — the most complete innovation software in the market. With the platform, you don’t need to use any other tools for innovation.
As you can see in the earlier screenshots, the platform could help you realize your brainstorming goals. You can then use it to convert the best ideas into projects and manage your whole innovation portfolio.