I’ve been giving some thought to how you could undertake an effective brainstorming exercise in an online meeting. I was distracted for a while by a distant memory that the word ‘brainstorming’ had been deemed offensive to epileptics and that we should now use the term ‘thought showers’ instead, but thankfully it seems that this whole idea has been rejected – see TrainingZone. Anyway, a brainstorming session will usually include these steps:
- defining the problem
- the rapid generation of ideas (it’s important that no participants are allowed to evaluate any of the ideas generated during this step)
- sifting out of the most obviously inappropriate ideas
- evaluation of the top contenders
The electronic whiteboard is the obvious tool to use for this process. If you have an object-orientated whiteboard tool, which allows contributions to be deleted or moved around once they have been pasted onto the whiteboard, then this is ideal: simply summarise the problem at the top of a blank screen and allow participants to type away; when they’re done, you’ll be able to work together to remove the least feasible options and then place the best contenders in order.
Without an object-orientated tool (and Webex might be the market leader but it still doesn’t have an object-oriented whiteboard), you could either divide up the whiteboard so each participant has their own space, or act as scribe for contributions received through audio or the chat facility. You still can’t drag and drop the various contributions around to place them in order, but you can use the annotation tools to cross out the least feasible options and mark the best contenders. A little less elegant but should do the job.