A Little Brainstorm About Virtual Brainstorming
Working virtually is nothing new. After all, most of us have had to do it at one time or another. But during this COVID-19 outbreak, working from home – or WFH for you hip kids – has become the norm over the past couple months. For some, it was a pretty simple transition. Others struggle with sustaining focus in an environment that they don’t associate with work (their home), feeling unconnected with their partners/teams due to lack of in-person collaboration, and all the distractions of working from their homes (yes, that is the washing machine buzzing).
So how do people do it? How do they effectively collaborate and produce good work when they can’t even be in the same building, much less the same room? Here are a few tips and tricks that may help you out – as well as a few things we at Test Pilot have found to work pretty well for us and our clients.
Location. Location. Location.
Ditch The Kitchen
Try to set up in a spare bedroom or the basement versus a high traffic area like the kitchen or living room. It will cut down on distractions and provide a quiet space to work, virtually meet with your clients, and have a brainstorming sesh with your team. Remember, you may be WFH but you’re still representing your company’s brand.
Got a Door? Close It.
Kids. The dog. A chatty spouse. Sure they’re lovable. But they’re also needy. It’s okay to shut them out while you’re working. Besides, if your workspace is cluttered like ours at Test Pilot, a closed will help to cut down on those snide, but loving jabs.
We’re willing to bet you don’t have a cubicle in your home (please say you don’t). So spread out. Use the entire space for brainstorming, collaborating and working. Stand up. Pace. Stretch. Whatever. It’s your home. You make the rules.
Don the Muffs
Don’t have a quiet place to set up camp? Then invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. Pro tip: They’ll work just as well when you head back to the office.
Create a Routine
Yes, routines can be a very good thing – especially when working and collaborating virtually. They reduce mental fatigue, boost productivity and enhance mental clarity. But routines are easy to plan but hard to follow (trust us on this one). Here’s a few ways you can establish a routine that keep you and your team productive, energized and connected.
• Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Yes, that means you have to stop binging Tiger King at a reasonable hour.
• Dress like you’re going to work. That means you shower and put on real pants – no sweats and a button down for that Zoom call.
• Set the rules for your brainstorm. Set defined start and stop times to keep the conversation on track and the participants fresh. At Test Pilot, we generally keep each session to 1-2 hours. If we need more time, we schedule another session.
• He/She with the talking stick has the floor. Ever been on a video or telephone conference where more than one person is talking at the same time? Yeah, it sucks – especially when neither will concede the floor. Take turns. Let everyone have a chance to speak. Respect each other and their ideas.
• Allow time for free-thinking outside the group. It is very rare to solve a challenge or problem in the best way possible in a single brainstorming session. Give your team some time to stretch their minds independent of the group between sessions. When you regroup, share any new ideas.
Get the Right Tools
Remote working and collaborating means finding creative ways to manage projects, share ideas and brainstorm. There are a lot of virtual tools out there – many of them free – that can help keep you and your teams on the same page through the duration of a project.
At Test Pilot, our favorites are:
Collaboration – Phone, Slack
Project Management – Asana
Virtual Conferencing/Presentations – Zoom
Note: We have no vested interest in any of these companies/platforms and we receive no payment or commission from them. However, Slack, Asana and Zoom, if you want to write us a check, that would be pretty cool of you.
Although those are our favorite go-tos, there are lots more out there. Here are a few more of them:
We’re all in this together. And if we can help each other during these unprecedented times – even if it’s just another way to stay virtually connected with our work teams – we should do it. Which begs the question: What kind of tools do you use? What works best for your situation and work style?