It’s easy to believe that rubbing elbows is necessary for the sparks of creativity and innovation to fly. At Savv-e, our creative teams have often engaged in long, round-table discussions as we develop ideas for new projects.

With our whole office shifting to remote work, we are aware that isolation can inhibit creative collaboration. As a team of learning designers, creativity is our bread and butter, so without the ability to meet face-to-face we expected that we would struggle to brainstorm effectively for our projects.

Instead, we have discovered that technology is allowing our team to thrive creatively in ways that bring out fresh dynamics and skills.

How to brainstorm remotely and creatively

Lately, we’ve had some amazing ideation sessions where the technology has significantly enhanced the speed in which we generate ideas and is improving our productivity.

We’ve been using an innovative, collaborative format for launching our new projects that is already paying dividends. Here’s how we do it:

  1. We start with a 10-minute project briefing via video conferencing covering the project background, learner personas, business requirements and scope. There’s a chance for the team to clarify any aspects by asking questions at the end.
  2. We end the call and move to a 5-minute brainstorm using an instant messaging channel to identify key content areas to address. 
  3. We return to video conferencing for a 10-minute discussion commenting on key themes that emerged from the brainstorm.
  4. We swap back to another 5-minute brainstorm using the instant messaging channel to identify creative learning approaches.
  5. We finish with a final 10-minute video discussion commenting on key themes that emerged from the brainstorm.

The process is directed by one or two team leaders. Throughout every part, everyone is given a space to speak to the topic at hand so that everyone is able to contribute.

Overall, we combine short, focused bursts of discussion with virtual design board technologies to produce a concentrated flow of inspiration. 

The process has been amazingly productive. In 30 minutes, we produced the same amount of content and creative ideas that would have taken us 60 to 90 minutes in a face-to-face, round table discussion.

Creating fresh dynamics

The method has also brought out valuable new perspectives in our team. With a good mix of introverted and extroverted team members, it can be challenging to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. The synchronous nature of instant messaging allows everyone to formulate, share and respond to ideas at the same time without worrying about speaking over someone else. 

As a result, our quieter team members have been empowered to share brilliant insights as their voice takes equal standing. Likewise, hierarchical roles become less intimidating, giving newer or younger members of the team the confidence to contribute creatively. 

The key ingredients for creativity

The true ingredients for creativity can be hard to spot. If we look closely, it’s not physical proximity that fosters innovation; it’s communication, spontaneity and interpersonal relationships.

While remote working can allow our learning designers to skip the commute and work in fresh environments, the price we pay is the loss of incidental conversations and the rise of routine work. As a result, creativity is flattened, inspiration dulled, and productivity lost. 

That’s why our remote brainstorming sessions have been so effective. 

  • Their structure is quick and alternating, which creates energy that promotes spontaneity. 
  • The synchronous nature of instant messaging democratises conversation and promotes effective communication
  • Longer video discussions give team members a chance to talk out loud and continue developing interpersonal relationships.

Ultimately, rising to the challenge of working both creatively and remotely has led us to innovate and take full advantage of the technologies available to us. The results have been amazing and we can’t wait to see where it will take us! 

Working in the creative industry of digital learning design during a period that seemed to inhibit creative collaboration.