3 steps to run a successful virtual brainstorm

What is it that first comes to your mind, when it comes to innovation? It can be something as subtle as reminders for critical medication or  game-changing like a rollable smartphone or even life-changing like RNA vaccines.

For many businesses during the pandemic it was either innovate or perish. During quarantines and lockdowns, working remotely and having virtual brainstorms has become the rule rather than the exception.  Having out-of-the-box, wildly creative, and epoch-making ideas has become a necessity for companies in a period of disruptive change. And brainstorming is a crucial first step in your organization’s approach towards innovation and value-engineering.  Amidst the hustle and bustle, getting the best out of your virtual brainstorming sessions can still be a challenge. Like Alex F. Osborn once said, sometimes it is easier tone down a wild idea than think of a new one.

So let’s delve deeper into some of the fundamental strategies that will help your business get the best out of its brainstorming sessions and build a tempest of actionable ideas, based on insights.

Brain Writing

This is a strategy that is especially useful in group brain storming sessions. This is a technique that helps segregate the process of idea generation from discussion. A topic, like a pertinent market -problem that can be solved with a product is shared with the team.  The members then proceed to jot down their own ideas. This process not only impels team members to share their ideas but also circumvents the anchoring biasResearch has shown that brainwriting has the potential for increasing group productivity in comparison to face-to-face group.  Apparently, people can generate 37 % more ideas in group brainwriting sessions vis-à-vis conventional face to face brain-storming. This is a technique that gets the best out of team members that would otherwise get influenced by ideas first presented in the meeting.

Another approach is asynchronous brain writing, which can be extremely useful in the new normal, is where individuals can choose to jot down their ideas when they are alone at leisure and then share it a group.  Creativity is often thought of as being eidetic and being relaxed can sometimes lead to better ideas.

Get the right people

Teams with a proven track record of success tend to prioritise the right strategies and develop strategic plans to take advantage of the most promising prospects.

There are many tools available to formulate ideas online:  Some of these are IdeaBoardz, Google Documents, Slack and Miro among others. However, technology isn’t the key facet of an effective brainstorming session.  It’s about creating the right atmosphere and sound for everyone to have the attitude, inspiration, and focus they need to collaborate in new and innovative ways online. A good first step is to assemble a team that involves people with a variety of qualifications and experience related to the topic being debated. Selecting the right topic is also crucial: Ideally identifying a pertinent market problem can be a big step.  This will lead to a more holistic brainstorming session and set the foundation for a process and criteria. An article by Harvard Business Review highlights that it is easier to bring in a wide range of participants with virtual brainstorming.

Having a combination of introverts and extroverts, as well as creative and non-creative members, to make it more effective. This would result in a wider range of responses. Once you have a rich reservoir of ideas, build a criteria to prioritize your ideas better. Assess the impact, customer value, feasibility, ROI, and novelty factor for the idea before it is executed.

Wear different hats

Ever imagine yourself as Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs? How would they approach a specific need-gap or value engineer a product? What would their thoughts be a on a specific subject? With role-storming you do just that.

Playing a character can add a lot of zest and flair to your virtual brainstorming sessions. It piques the imagination and adds a certain zest and flair to the brainstorming process. You don’t have to be Bill Gates necessarily and sometimes you can just put yourself in the shoes of your target audience with an effective mind-map.The Efficacy of the Mind Map Study Technique”—researchers have discovered that leveraging mind-maps can enhance retention by 10-15%.  This can have a profound impact on the process of idea generation.  Both role-storming and mind-maps can help teams when they are brainstorming or working on repetitive projects.


Undoubtedly, virtual brainstorming sessions can not only generate some thought-provoking ideas but the whole process can be a lot of fun. It is a great way to build collaboration and get the best out of your virtual teams. However, if the session is mismanaged, energy levels are low, and if team members don’t feel comfortable enough to share their ideas then things can quickly go south. Finding an effective approach to getting the best out of your virtual brainstorming sessions could thus involve some trial and error.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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