Online whiteboards can be used for a ton of different exercises, and one of their core benefits is their ability to facilitate brainstorming sessions. Traditional whiteboarding is used heavily in brainstorming, so it makes sense that this ability would translate well online. While online whiteboards can effectively replicate a traditional brainstorming session, these brainstorming examples show how they can accommodate multiple new structures and exercises that would be difficult to accomplish in person.
In this article, we’ll outline 7 key brainstorming exercises to conduct with an online whiteboard and show how they are unique and beneficial.
Ideation sprints are essentially traditional brainstorming sessions with an added rush. In this exercise, teams will conduct a brainstorming session while a timer runs, and when it runs out all the ideas will be collected and analyzed.
The key purpose that the timer serves is an added sense of urgency to the session, where people feel compelled to dash down ideas as fast as possible in order to get as many on the board as they can. Additionally, it’s important to emphasize that no ideas will be discussed or analyzed during the ideation period as this is strictly handled in the aftermath.
One of the benefits this jam session has is it ensures every idea makes its way onto the board. Because there is a time crunch and people aren’t discussing every idea being brought up, there will never be a case where an idea is shot down before it makes it onto the board. This means that more ideas will be discussed and fleshed out than before because there are simply more options available.
Where traditional brainstorming methods might restrict ideas that are premature or not proposed with confidence, ideation sprints are a great way to ensure people’s ideas are heard by the team.
Brainwriting, or agile solution building, is an exercise that is very helpful to conduct when you want to build ideas that have multiple different perspectives baked into them.
This brainstorming example begins with everyone thinking about their best idea, or ideas and posting them on the board. As time goes on, people will move across and down to make comments on each idea. These comments will be suggestions, creative strategies to improve execution or an evolved vision of the initial idea.
After the session has ended, there will be 6 fleshed-out ideas that have integrated everyone’s unique perspective. These can then be analyzed and the team can decide which are the best to pursue.
By having everyone comment on every idea, teams can effectively avoid an unbalanced conversation about which idea works best and can focus on all ideas evenly.
Design Thinking Exercises
In our article defining design thinking, we define design thinking as “… a process in which teams attempt to understand their customer, reimagine problems, and brainstorm solutions previously out of reach.”
In this context, design thinking helps brainstorm solutions by focusing on visual elements to help teams express themselves in a more creative way.
When conducting design thinking exercises, it’s important that collaborators focus on visual elements to convey their ideas. This could be images, references, diagrams, or drawings that help explain the concept they’re discussing.
Design thinking doesn’t work for everything, but it’s incredibly unique compared to other brainstorming examples. Especially when crafting a new product or brainstorming solutions to a problem, diagramming ideas is a really helpful way to get everyone involved and think about things from a different angle.
It’s a common misconception that design thinking is reserved for the artistically gifted. This is not the case. This exercise can include anyone as long as they’re ready to contribute because it’s less about creating a beautiful drawing and more about opening your mind to alternative angles of a previously conceived solution.
Incognito brainstorming is usually done through online whiteboards and involves hiding the contributions of everyone but yourself. This is similar to ideation sprints and takes the idea of avoiding other people’s ideas to a new level. In ideation sprints, you’re discouraged from looking at other ideas because there isn’t much time to do so, but in incognito brainstorming, you’re unable to look at them at all.
Brainstorming without the context of a larger group allows you to focus strictly on what you find valuable and emphasize this in your ideation. Everyone else will be doing the same thing and because of this there will be a ton of different ideas represented on the board.
This exercise can actually be mixed with other exercises like ideation sprints to create a new brainstorming dynamic that can be very effective for teams.
Single File Brainstorming
Single file brainstorming is a type of ideation that is probably very familiar to people as it’s fairly straightforward compared to the other brainstorming examples. In this exercise, each member contributes one idea to the group and everyone else has a chance to speak before anyone gets a second chance. Another important rule is that people must contribute a unique idea, regardless of if their first choice was already taken.
The advantages to conducting single file brainstorming are that everyone is ensured their opinion will be heard, regardless of what they have to say. This inclusionary mindset helps people overcome some of the possible difficulties with collaboration and guarantees they have a slot reserved just for them.
Similar to ideation sprints, single file brainstorming guarantees everyone will participate and allows people to speak their minds before confirming any next steps.
One big disadvantage to brainstorming strategies like ideation sprints is some ideas can get lost in relation to the overall goal. Maybe 100 ideas are discovered, but only 20% are relevant to the end goal. That’s not always a bad thing but sometimes brainstorming requires a more thoughtful approach.
This is where mind mapping comes in. Mind maps are defined as “A mind map is a simple visual tool that helps organize ideas in an easily understandable, sequential structure.”
Mind maps begin with a central idea and proceed outwards with multiple levels of related ideas, or associations. These associations will branch out in terms of their relevance and proximity to the central idea, but will always have a navigable string of relations back to the central idea.
Allowing teams to branch off while remaining connected to the mission of the brainstorming session means every idea will have to relate back to the central idea. This helps ensure everything that is discussed will be a possibly relevant solution and you won’t have to sift through tangential ideas to get to the real ones.
Most of the strategies we’ve discussed so far are traditionally done on a blank whiteboard, allowing for full flexibility and creativity. This is not the only brainstorming scenario, however, and there are a lot of applications that take on a more structured approach.
Structured brainstorming is an ideation session that uses a template to build the brainstorming session in an attempt to give people more context and focus on their ideation. Some examples of this could be using a SWOT Analysis, a Business Model Canvas, or a Retrospective.
These templates can be really impactful for teams that are conducting more analytical brainstorming sessions, and the structure can help relate their ideation to the main goals of the session.
The application of structural brainstorming is helpful but limited to the scenarios where the templates align with the team’s goals. That being said, online whiteboards provide the creative freedom for teams to create any board they want, making it possible to turn any brainstorm into a custom structured environment. For this reason, a structured approach is one of many brainstorming examples that helps show what online whiteboards are capable of.
Whether you’re jamming out some ideas as fast as possible or taking a more meticulous approach, these brainstorming examples should help structure your next brainstorming session. If you want to try our online whiteboard solution for yourself, make sure you stay tuned to Fresco to learn more.