6 reasons why you should brainstorm digitally

Do you still use sticky notes, brown paper or flipcharts in your brainstorm sessions? Let me tell you about a better way.

A wall filled with sticky notes is initially pretty impressive and probably fills participants with pride… but this feeling will quickly be replaced with a slight panic. Suddenly you realise that someone has to turn this chaotic yellow wall of ideas into something actionable. Half the ideas are illegible and even typing out the other half will cost you hours of your life.

Not surprisingly, in practice it usually takes days, if not weeks, before someone finally starts digitising the post-its. By this stage, part of the sticky notes has already been lost forever.

Abandon this old-fashioned and frustrating way of brainstorming, and start to brainstorm digitally.

Here are some compelling reasons why you shouldn’t wait one more day to try it:

1. No hassle digitising the sticky notes

Sticky notes whirl from the wall, even before the brainstorm session has ended. An intern is appointed to type out all ideas, but he has more pressing tasks to focus on first. Weeks later you find a dusty flipchart filled with pale post-it notes in a corner of the meeting room. What was this about again?

Nobody likes typing out scribbles on post-it notes or flipcharts. As a result; it often doesn’t happen. No follow-up means your brainstorm session was a waste of time. Multiply the duration of the brainstorm session with the average hourly wage and you might be in for a shocking surprise

Save yourself the hassle of typing out all those ideas. Have participants enter their ideas digitally during the session instead. All ideas, instantly digitised. How about that.

2. You get to enrich the ideas immediately

In any brainstorm session ideas have to be shared. Apart from having to type over all ideas afterwards, this is probably the most dreaded part of the brainstorming process. One-by-one participants rattle off their list of ideas. The other attendees stare glassy-eyed at their own handwriting. We all know what they think: “It’s almost my turn, it’s almost my turn, it’s almost my turn!” Needless to say; few people really listen to the ideas being shared.

Then someone shares a brilliant idea. With pizzazz and a gripping argument. Afterwards, you decide to look up this particularly amazing idea… only to realise the corresponding post-it note merely says “communication”. The rest of that compelling argument your dear colleague simply improvised. Nothing of the entire explanation ended up on paper…

Now imagine you’re brainstorming digitally. After each round of generating ideas, all ideas show up on a big screen in front of the room. As a group, you read these ideas one-by-one. Many ideas will be straight-forward and can be quickly dealt with without much need for elaboration. But there will also be ideas (like the above-mentioned ‘communication’) that need some explanation. By showing the ideas, it will instantly be obvious that something is missing. Anyone can simply exclaim “What do you mean with…” and the person who wrote the idea can elaborate. This elaboration can immediately be added to the ideas.

What also will happen, is that people will start building on ideas. While reading the idea on the big screen, new ideas will pop up. You’ll notice that people will say things like “We could also do this by…” or “And this effect will be even greater if we add…” Showing the ideas in front of all participants will stimulate people to add their own input. Ideas will be enriched and alternatives will be shared. Of course, each person who has a new idea or addition can easily add this to the ideas already listed.

Showing all ideas on a big screen allows participants to add alternatives and context, before the thoughts behind an idea are forgotten.

3. You’ll save paper

By now, almost every organisation is engaged in sustainability. In theory, many offices even transformed into ‘paperless offices’. So, sticking a dead tree to the wall in the form of little yellow pieces of paper is a bit odd…

Having all participants use their own devices (smartphone, tablet or laptop) takes away the need to waste flipcharts, rolls of brown paper or sticky notes.

4. It’s quicker and more complete

Sticky notes force you to be short and concise. You don’t have room for too many words. Sometimes that’s excellent, but often the essence of an idea gets lost if it’s written down in one or two keywords. A bit of context is usually preferable.

Typing ideas makes it easy to quickly add some explanation in an extra sentence. And the knowledge that your idea will be displayed on a big screen in a few minutes will urge you to do this.

5. No more illegible handwriting (or blurry photos)

Not everyone is blessed with clear handwriting. Sometimes it’s easier to decipher ancient hieroglyphs than the handwriting of your direct colleague. Sure, you can emphasise that people should write in block letters, but once in a creative flow, such well-meaning advice is easily forgotten. To make matters worse, often the output of a creative session is hastily photographed before everyone rushes out. And nobody notices that one of those photos is completely out of focus, until it’s too late.

Avoid having to deal with unclear handwriting or blurry pictures. Using a keyboard to write down ideas ensures that there can be no uncertainty about what is written.

6. Share the ideas immediately

One month after the brainstorm session, the afore-mentioned intern finally found the time to digitise all those sticky notes. Filled with pride, he sends the entire team an email with the results. Those receiving the email hardly remember being present at the brainstorm meeting, let alone what was discussed. Even worse; the reason behind the meeting is no longer relevant.

Having participants write down their ideas digitally means you can download all ideas directly. After the session, participants no longer have to wait for weeks to find the results in their inbox. You can send them the full list of ideas in a matter of minutes (or hours, if you want to cluster the ideas first). Sharing the results early on increases the chances of appropriate action being taken.

Okay, okay… but how?

Sure, brainstorming digitally is way superior to the old-fashioned habit of scribbling thoughts on pieces of paper. But you don’t expect us to sit behind a word processor during a creative session, do you?

Don’t be silly. Of course I won’t propose such a thing.

At HatRabbits, we’ve developed an application that not only automates the generation and facilitation of a custom-made brainstorm program, but also allows you to enter all ideas digitally on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. These ideas can quickly and easily be downloaded, ordered and shared.

Check out the video below to get a quick impression of how the software works:

Curious to try it out?
Send us an email at hello@hatrabbits.com to request a trial.

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