Brainstorming Culture a win at Little
Little Diversified Architectural Consulting (Little) is an international architecture and design firm, with five offices located across the US cities of Charlotte, Newport Beach, Orlando, Durham and Washington DC.
Little is recognized for developing exceptional design solutions that generate business results in the workplace, the community and the healthcare and retail industries.
They achieve this by providing results that go beyond the extra mile through combining expertise in architecture, engineering, interior architecture and additional, complimenting services such as land development, branded graphics and more.
Nikki Clinton and Rich Glenny are the facilitators at Little. One of their main focuses is to ensure that Little maintains a culture of brainstorming across all their office locations.
“If you ask people at Little what keeps us excited about coming to work each day, you’ll hear repeatedly that it’s the people and the culture…Our culture is open, informal and collaborative and fun – all reflected in recognition of Little as a “#1 Best Place to work” on multiple occasions.”
Online Brainstorming Solution to overcome tyranny of distance
A successful collaborative and brainstorming culture has always been typically associated with a face to face, direct engagement between team members.
Little’s greatest challenge was connecting large groups and people from its five different locations whenever a large, firm-wide issue needed to be addressed.
In such a situation, brainstorming was limited to a small number of participants in a single location that excluded large numbers of employees.
Little’s other challenge was finding the right digital solution – amongst many that’s available – which needed to be user friendly and intuitive, so that everyone can feel like they can jump in and contribute, whether or not they had a lot of experience with technology.
Brainstorming & collaborative cultures maintained through online innovations
After much research and considering the options available, Little opted for a group collaborative mind mapping that allowed people to watch and add ideas in real time.
Their focus was on the content rather than having too many features that would confuse and distract. Their goal was to have no more than a few minutes of training to familiarize participants with the purpose and process.
“There are a lot of online options that facilitate virtual brainstorm culture, but we did not find any that are as user friendly as GroupMap,” Nikki and Rich observed.
“GroupMap’s ability to connect people from various locations and watch ideas being added to the mind map in real-time was what convinced us that GroupMap was the best option.”
“Ease of use, especially for first-time users, was also important as it allowed participants to join in with only a few minutes of training.”
Supported by other remote team, online collaboration and communications channels such as Slack and MS Teams, the Little team can now bring people from each office to build an overall sense of community.
Five offices contribute to never-ending online brainstorming
According to Nikki and Rich, GroupMap gave Little the opportunity to do something they could not do before – to have employees from all five offices online brainstorming together simultaneously with the ability to see everyone’s ideas.
“Before GroupMap that was not an option. GroupMap also allowed us to keep our creative momentum going since we can always return to a brainstorm to add new ideas. The brainstorm, in effect, never really ends,” they said.
The Little team creatively used GroupMap to sustain and even enhance their brainstorming culture:
- They ran an online ‘pre-brainstorm’ brainstorm using 2 or 3 team members to better “frame” the problem and what they wanted others in the team to do.
- They also added a warm-up activity that gave new users a chance to trial and experiment in a safe way with the technology and to get comfortable with the format.
- They added the “like” (thumbs up and thumbs down) and dot voting features to all of the virtual brainstorming process to help filter out where support from the team was the strongest, so that top ideas can be taken forward.
- They mainly (95% of the time) used MindMap for brainstorming as it allowed participants to see snippets of information at a quick glance – almost like laying out index cards on a table – while still containing them in an organized structure.
The team found that the Mind Map template was great for a lot of tasks beyond brainstorming. GroupMap was also used to storyboard presentations, take notes, and organize research.
- They used the Surveys to get feedback in GroupMap right after the online brainstorming before participants moved on to their next task. With the feedback from the surveys, Little’s facilitators were able to constantly integrate and improve their process after each session.
Discover and lead new innovations for competitive edge
Nikki and Rich shared some key results they see for their team’s culture – beyond maintaining an online brainstorming – through the use of GroupMap:
- Opportunity for all to contribute comfortably:
“Because GroupMap is a more democratic method, the quieter, shy members enjoyed contributing just as freely as anyone else… We now have a way for everyone to come together and share ideas, from the CEO to the new hire….”
- Connect remote teams better:
“Other feedback we received was that using GroupMap helped employees forge new connections between offices. Fellow virtual brainstormers, who previously were separated by a long distance, could share ideas and get to know one another.”
- Upvoted by many Little team members:
“An overwhelming majority of participants really enjoyed using GroupMap and have continued to be repeat users.”
But possibly, one of the important results for Little is an opportunity to discover, generate and lead with new ideas and innovation, providing them with a continued competitive edge, in an increasingly competitive market.
“And while the democratic nature of the participation provides for a great experience, giving everyone equal access also means that we have a better chance, as a company, of finding new breakthrough ideas that will help our clients achieve their goals.”