Brainstorm the brain-friendly way

by | Apr 15, 2014 | Blog | 0 comments

snow storm in cityWhen is a brainstorming session as silent as a snow fall and just as forceful?

When you’re brainstorming with Powernoodle, the cloud-based guidance system for better, smarter and faster decision making.

For more than two years now, Powernoodle has been my go-to brainstorming tool for virtual teams with members across the country or even the globe.

Team members can turn their distance from a liability into an asset. They work asynchronously and anonymously on their own schedule.

At their convenience, they log onto Powernoodle and contribute their ideas when they feel creative.

People like the experience because they can contribute on their own terms and time.  They don’t have to worry about impressing anyone, being judged or dissing others or being dissed.

Recently I dropped the “a” in asynchronous. I hosted a group Powernoodle session in which we all participated at the same time.

The group dynamics were different. And we still had great outcomes.

Here’s the situation and what happened.

One of my clients had a time-sensitive challenge that she knew could benefit from some additional brainpower.

She asked for “volunteers” around the company—either people she knew or knew of who were familiar with the topic—who might be willing to “donate” an hour to help.

I suggested we use Powernoodle to make the process easier and better, and she trusted me to try it.

At the appointed hour, all 13 individuals who accepted her invitation dialed into the conference call number. They were sitting in front of their computers logged onto Powernoodle from different business units all around the United States.

For our 60 minute call, we followed a tight agenda, which I had prepared in advance.

We allocated 10 minutes for introductions since very few people knew each other.  We also quickly reviewed the Powernoodle instructions sent ahead of time.

For the next five minutes, the individual with the “mission” described her situation and her request for ideas. We then opened up the line for five minutes of questions and answers.

Then we started the 40 minutes of brainstorming.

Soon, there was total silence. No voices. No deep breathing. No keyboards clicking. It was as quiet as New York City becomes in a snowfall.

Instead of snowflakes, I saw ideas quickly appearing on our screens as participants typed their suggestions.

“It’s so quiet,” I commented almost in disbelief.

“We’re having fun brainstorming and typing,” someone remarked.

For the rest of our time together, a few people would pipe up to answer a clarifying question I asked or to add a comment. For the most part, the phone line was quiet.

By the time we finished—right on time 60 minutes after we started—we had more than 40 quality ideas to work with.

It was a win for the participants too, as we learned from the post-call survey my client conducted.

Afterward, I had the opportunity to speak in person with one of the participants about the experience. 

Compared to traditional brainstorming, he said he liked seeing other people’s comments rather than hearing them.

For him, he said the words on the screen:

  • Kept him focused on the task at hand.
  • Triggered him to think of his own words.
  • Helped him think creatively since he didn’t have to spend energy remembering what people said.

Brainstorming the way we did it is much faster, easier on the brain and psyche and encourages creative ideas.

The experience supports what I’ve been learning in my applied neuroscience program though the Neuroleadership Institute.

Traditional brainstorming is packed with problems.

For example, traditional brainstorming is a very verbal activity. Introverts and others who don’t like to fight for air space to introduce their ideas are often left out in the cold.

Traditional brainstorming also tends to suppress dissent in the interest of group harmony. Individuals may remain silent when they think they will disturb the status quo or feel threatened if they speak up.

Creativity also can be helped by incubation—setting aside quiet time to let the unconscious minder wander and make connections, which is another disadvantage of traditional brainstorming.

We didn’t provide time for that in our 60-minute call. (It’s a hallmark of the asynchronous Powernoodle sessions.) We countered that by inviting more than 10 people to participate anonymously.

My learning? Whether asynchronous or synchronous, technology gives brainstorming a big brain-friendly boost!

What’s your learning?


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