We have all done the traditional brainstorming session at one point or another as a way to produce new ideas. It always goes down the same way; you sit in a room with a whiteboard, gather your team around. and work with whatever comes to mind.
But what about when your team is working remotely and there is no physical room with a white board? How do you tackle problems and develop new ideas, both individually and in a group setting, when working with a remote workforce? How do you inspire creativity in people who are stuck up at home the wake of the corona-virus pandemic and might be losing their spark?
Here are a few non-traditional creative exercises and brainstorming techniques you can engage your remote workforce in to let their creative juices flow and generate new ideas.
7 Creative Exercises To Kick Off A Brainstorming Session!
Draw In The Circles
Created by Bob McKim of the Stanford Design Program, the 30 circles exercise will tap into your hidden creativity. Draw 30 equal circles on each page and hand it out to your teammates. The goal is to fill in as many circles as possible with 3 minutes on the clock, with the focus being quantity, not quality. The participants can fill the circles with whatever they want, or perhaps you can ask them to make sure that their circles are variations on a theme; perhaps they are all emojis, or fruits, or animals.
The goal is to fill out as many as possible in 3 minutes. Once the time is up, encourage collaboration in zoom meetings and reflect on similarities. Since chances are that you are working remotely, you can take a picture of your drawing and put it up for your team to see.
This game stops you from self-censoring and reveals a startling fact about us: when we go for quantity, we do not have enough time to linger on our ideas and scrutinize them closely. We simply work with the motive of filling in the circles, thinking to edit later if need be. This is the stage where creativity flourishes.
Call On Alter-egos
This fun exercise is done in groups. Why don’t you engage your remote workforce in a creativity-boosting, out-of-the-box thinking exercise to refresh their minds? Whenever you are stuck in a rut, call on your team to imagine how they would solve the problem at hand if they were a famous superhero or a popular fictional character of their favorite show?
Let us say, how would superman go about positioning your brand as a thought leader in virtual reality? What would Tony Stark have done to improve your latest communications package? How would Steve Jobs improve team collaboration when working remotely? How would Don Draper get your core messages across to millennial in the face of the pandemic?
The game calls for free-thinking. Employees can either choose someone they think embodies the right qualities for the job, which in turn would help you develop your vision, or someone completely mind-boggling, to tap into less conventional ideas.
This fun exercise brings together ideas or objects that otherwise don’t belong together, to form a new concept. This game might be the reason we have amazing products like the sofa bed, the boss baby, the swiss army knife, and so on. Make a list of unrelated items and send it to your team on slack or any other communication tool you are using to stay connected.
Ask team members to pick two or more items and explore different ways they can be connected. Expect to see a lot of giggles and silly results, but it will surely get your team out of a creative rut and get their juices flowing.
Use A Dictionary And Three Words
This funny yet extremely challenging creative exercise only needs you to pick up a dictionary and choose a few words. Pick a random word from the dictionary and select two more words (the ones behind and after your randomly selected word) and send them to your team. Ask your team to write a short story using only these three words. It does not have to be a “wow” story – it just has to make sense.
Twyla Tharp is a big proponent of this activity and often cites its benefits for opening up your mind. She says that this game emphasizes the importance of not giving up when you are faced with challenging words, since the toughest combinations prove to be highly conductive for your creative self.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is used to expand upon existing ideas and improve processes by testing and looking at the idea from different perspectives. For each letter of the mnemonic, ask yourself a related question about your project or the problem at hand. For instance, if the product at hand is a cupcake:
- Substitute: For instance, what will happen if I swap blueberry for strawberry for a new flavor?
- Combine: For instance, how about I make a cupcake that would complement a glass of beer?
- Adapt: Since my bakery is closed due to Covid, how can I adapt my sale strategy to promote online orders?
- Modify: With the buying power decreasing, what can I modify to create more value on my cupcake?
- Put to another use: Can we promote low-calorie cupcake that are perfect for the lockdown?
- Eliminate: Can I eliminate flour from the cupcakes to make them healthier?
- Rearrange: People are used to seeing to seeing the icing on the outside, but can I stuff my cupcake with icing for a whole new burst of surprise?
This method forces you to approach your project, service, product, or issue in unexpected ways, and unearth innovative solutions in the run. Each question asks you to dig a little deeper into the issue and explore hitherto untapped possibilities.
This is a really fun activity that encourages your team mates to let their imagination run wild. Sky’s the limit. Ask your team to dream up the most impractical, extreme, and unattainable solutions they can think of to a given problem or rut, guaranteed that the solution would address the problem in a flawless manner.
Create a list of a few dozen wishes pertaining to the task at hand. Choose the most viable wishes and discuss the ideas in detail, such as what makes the wish so impossible or how someone can scale the wish down to a more realistic concept that can be pursued. Ask your team if different features of different wishes could be integrated into a unified approach?
You might be surprised to discover applicable, real-world solutions among your team’s wildest wishes.
10 common Things
This game is good for starting a brainstorming session as well as an amazing team building activity. Divide your team into groups and have them come up with a list of 10 things they have in common in 10 minutes. To stick to a more business-oriented discussion and not delve into personal lives, you can limit the list to industry or work-related topics.
It can be something as simple as “we are all computer science graduates”, or “we all wear ties”. This simple game serves to get the group thinking as a whole, promotes discussion and dialogue, creates a bond, and generates a few laugh, as well as create a dynamic, eclectic environment that is conductive to brainstorming. Allow time for each group to share their list with the larger team on the online whiteboard.
Aliens Have Landed
This fun team activity encourages creative thinking and builds out of the box thinking, which is key for a successful brainstorming session. Split your team into groups of 3 or four and make up a scenario where aliens have landed on earth and are interested to know more about your world.
You can assign a different object on earth to each group. For instance, one group will have to explain the nature of your company to the aliens, while another is tasked with explaining a supermarket.
But here is the twist. Since the aliens do not speak your tongue, you need to explain the crux of your assigned object in 5 pictures or symbols. Each group will have to come up with 5 images or symbols that sums up the object perfectly. It will be fun to see each group put two and two together and come up with mutual answers.