Much can depend on the outcome of corporate brainstorming sessions. The list includes the need to come up with ideas for the creation and successful launch of new products and services; the development of effective strategies and techniques to meet unexpected challenges; and identifying key messages and tactics to respond to crises.
With so much at stake, business leaders need to take steps to ensure meetings are as productive and successful as possible. This includes holding the sessions in person, not over Zoom or other video calls.
Avoid the dampening effect
A new study published in the journal Nature last week found that face-to-face teams help generate ideas better than those that meet virtually.
“Video meetings inhibit brainstorming because we’re so focused on the face in that box that we don’t let our eyes and minds wander as much, according to a new study. Looking isn’t good for creativity. Although It’s normal to be rude to stare at someone in real life while on a video call, the researchers said.
More conducive to creativity
Several consultants, experts, and executives have noted that holding in-person brainstorming sessions can help get participants’ creativity flowing easier, faster, and more often.
More interpersonal communication
Nathan Richardson founded Bariatric Diary, a resource for bariatric surgery patients. He observed that “people can concentrate better when they are in the same room. With the multitude of communication tools available online, it can be difficult for attendees to focus on the task at hand. It can also lead to distractions and interruptions in virtual meetings, making it harder for teams to do their jobs.
Ironically, its publication, the Bariatric Diary was the product of an in-person brainstorming session. “It’s a collaborative effort between creatives and doctors to create a trusted online resource for bariatric surgery. Since we were going to be sharing medical information, it was important that all parties involved had a clear overview of our goals to ensure we were all on the same page.
“Discussing this in person made it easier to explain, clarify and build ideas, so the progress was always continuous,” Richardson concluded.
“Not Even Close”
Daniel Levine is a trend expert, keynote speaker, and director of the Avant Guide Institute who often leads brainstorming sessions with teams from businesses and organizations. “Working live, in person with a team from Intel, we’ve created a very cool sports-related mobile phone app that demonstrates the company’s big data and analytics capabilities to the general public. another session with a large hotel group in Iceland, we looked at recent travel trends to build a new type of experiential resort,” he recalls.
Levine observed that “…virtual brainstorming sessions don’t even come close to being as effective as face-to-face ones for many reasons, the main one being that dominant personalities dominate even more online.”
Mark Beal is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Communication in Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. “Having participated in thousands of creative brainstorming sessions over my 30-year career in public relations and now as a college professor, an in-person physical setting offers inspiring elements that cannot be replicated via virtual items.”
According to Beal, “Verbal and physical interactions between participants are more spontaneous instead of being limited to one person speaking at a time in a virtual session. During an in-person session, physical exercises can be incorporated to inspire creative ideas.
Meanings and Parameters
He noted that touch, feel, and taste play a role in successful brainstorming, especially if it’s product-centric. “It is even more impactful to hold the brainstorming session in a place where a product or service such as automobiles, toys, food, drink and consumer goods are marketed and sold. You cannot replicate this experience virtually.
Create a community
Dean Guida, CEO of Infragistics and founder of digital workspace Slingshot, said, “There’s something to be said for people in a room coming together to brainstorm creative ideas and solve problems – it creates a community. It is difficult to reproduce this type of community in a virtual brainstorm.
“With ideas constantly bouncing off each other, there is an excitement that emerges in sharing ideas. This type of environment can also create a space where everyone feels comfortable contributing, even people who typically keep ideas to themselves. Teams can also put their laptops and phones away and focus on the task at hand,” Guida said.
Advice for entrepreneurs
Getting out of the office to hold brainstorming meetings can be just as useful as leaving Zoom, noted Richard Robinson, managing director of digital marketing agency Xeim Engage. The sites of their sessions have included restaurant kitchens, in retailer stores, in the sound studios of headphone manufacturers, and in the sensory labs of perfume companies.
They even met in the war room of the British warship HMS Belfast which fired
some of the first shots during the D-Day landings, was part of the arctic convoys that protected merchant ships in World War II and served in the Korean War. The vessel, which is now on display on the River Thames in London, was an ideal venue to meet the agency’s urgent need to win an e-commerce war.
“Where you think is as important as what you think. Staging, prepping people, being uncomfortable with the comforts of the office. If you want a big idea [then] break free from [the] Zoom limits, step into nature, [and] challenge yourself to think and see [things] differently,” he advised.