Brainstorming for Introverts

A key step in the design thinking processes we’re studying in MSTU4029 is ideation.

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One image of brainstorming is of a loud, chaotic activity with lot of people shouting out ideas in rapid succession.  In reality, done well, ideation is an organized process with rules, like “no judgement,” that should make people feel comfortable in the ideation process.  Check out IDEO’s video and outline of effective brainstorming techniques to see this process in action.

But even with these rules and processes, brainstorming sessions can be intimidating, especially for introverted participants. So, I was pretty excited to run across 4 Ways to Collaborate More Effectively Than a Traditional Meeting on Susan Cain’s Quite Revolution site.  (Aside: If you aren’t familiar with Susan Cain’s work, I highly recommend it.  Her book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explained me to myself).  In addition to presenting methods that can be helpful for those who need more time to think and are unlikely to speak up easily in a group, the ideas in this article are great if your group can’t physically be in the same place at the same time.

I tested one tool in the article – a site called Candor – that would be a great alternative to an in-person brainstorming session. With Candor, you pose your question to a group and invite your team to the session.  Privately and asynchronously, each person creates virtual post it notes with 1 idea per note.  You can only see your own notes at this stage.  After the convener of the brainstorm session “closes” the submission phase, all individuals in the group can see all ideas on “post-its” and “like” them.  With an anonymous mode, group members can’t tell who submitted which idea and as the voting progresses, only the convener can see the total votes.  The creators of Candor believe their product reduces bias and social pressure and helps to insure that everyone’s ideas get equal billing.  I found it quick to set up and intuitive to use.  It’s an interesting alternative for when a traditional, in person brainstorming session isn’t possible or desirable.   If you’ve found other ways to undertake the ideation stage of design thinking when with geographically- distributed teams, share your tips and tool suggestions in the comments.



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