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1. Brainstorming at a Distance
2. Brainstorming techniques
3. When to get to work

1. Brainstorming at a Distance

Traditionally, brainstorming takes place in the same room. People throw out ideas, write on blackboards or pads of paper...and it all takes place in real-time.

But if your project includes team members from different places, how do you collaborate?  How do you capture the energy of a brainstorming session and transfer it online?

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The key is to recapture the energy of a brainstorming session online.

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If you know how to do this, you can name it, box it, and sell it for a lot of money. The truth is no one has figured out the best way to brainstorm collaboratively online. But, some students have been successful in combining several different types of communication tools and a little creativity to make it work.

This is how it might be done. Your team will need to determine which communication tools you will use. As an example, students who worked on the Web project called Where the Earth meets the Skies: The Himalayas  lived on three different continents. But they successfully used the ICQ Live Internet Connection Required program for real time chat sessions and document sharing.

With ICQ, real-time discussions allow for the free exchange of ideas. The disadvantage is that these discussions don't flow like a normal conversation. The advantage is that your discussion is archived in text format. Everything that has been written is saved sequentially so that it is easier to trace the progress of your brainstorming.

With a little practice, patience and the right environment, these text-based brainstorming sessions can be as productive as any same-room session.

Create a haven for innovation

"Why is it I get my best ideas in the morning when I'm shaving"

Albert Einstein,

When setting the environment for innovation, the first thing you want to do is make sure that the environment is open, comfortable and as fun as possible.

Most people, just as Albert Einstein stated, are at their most creative when they're relaxed. The key is to make sure that all team members are free to contribute any idea they want without criticism.

That means getting rid of the word "NO". In his interview, Bill Hill of Metadesign stated "the first thing you do is break down all the rules of judgement. Once we become afraid of sounding foolish, the ideas will stop flowing."

The following includes the basic requirements for brainstorming:

  • Every brainstorming session has a goal. It starts with an examination of a problem or need, and to ensure that the session is effective, this goal needs to be agreed upon before the session begins.
    • The first brainstorming session should focus on defining the scope of your project. The question could be as simple as "What do we want this Web site to do?"
    • Future brainstorming questions could be, "How do we want this Web site to look?" or "How do we want the audience to navigate through our site?"
  • Take the idea of perfection and throw it out the window. Your first ideas are never perfect, they're a work in progress.
  • All team members are equal participants. Each person has an equal voice.
  • Each session should have a group facilitator, usually the teacher, who makes sure that people stay focused on creating ideas and not judging. At this point, no idea is stupid, no idea is perfect.
  • Move as quickly as you can. Once you slow down, you have a tendency to become self-conscious and the ideas dry up.
  • List all ideas that come to mind and make sure to make a copy of all the ideas generated.
  • Everyone needs to participate. This should never be a one person show. Everyone has something to contribute, everyone has an idea.

Section: Brainstorming introduction
Page 1: Brainstorming at a Distance
Page 2: Brainstorming techniques
Page 3: When to get to work

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