How Online Brainstorming Templates, Tools and Techniques Can Improve Your Meetings

groupmap-shares-how-online-brainstorming-templates-tools-and-techniques-can-help-you-deliver-more-effective-meetings

When we hold a meeting, we hope that people will openly share ideas without judgment. We hope ideas will be presented in an organized way. We hope that technology will be an enabler, not a barrier. 

Instead, meetings are often unproductive, filled with awkward silences or participants who don’t contribute. 

An online meeting can have even more difficulties. Trying to manage a flow of ideas in chat or an online whiteboard is also very challenging. 

This is where brainstorming templates, tools, and techniques could be the solution.

Online brainstorming lets you take advantage of the virtual space. It can help you achieve things you can’t in a traditionally delivered, face-to-face meeting. 

Brainstorming templates, tools and techniques can help you deliver more effective meetings. They – 

  • shape a logical meeting process
  • eliminate production blocking
  • allow anonymous input 
  • increase meeting participation
  • allow people to collaborate in real-time

Online Brainstorming Templates Help You Structure Your Meeting

Brainstorming templates are designed to deliver effective meetings. This makes them the perfect meeting tool. 

Online templates are really helpful as they – 

  • can support many different types of meetings (in-person, remote, and hybrid).
  • can work with your meeting time frames (synchronous or asynchronous).
  • help to capture all inputs as the meeting progresses.

Brainstorming templates directly reflect the purpose of a meeting. Examples include:

Templates offer a clear and easy process. With a clearly structured purpose in plain view, people are more likely to be productive.

Online Brainstorming Techniques Stop Production Blocking

Taking a brainstorming session online can stop production blocking and deliver more effective meetings.

Production blocking happens when one person in a group ‘blocks’ other people from offering ideas. Some examples of production blocking include – 

  • a talkative person dominating the session, stopping others from sharing.
  • one person talking may distract others in the group and they forget their idea.
  • having listened to an idea that was poorly received by the group, a person decides not to put their idea forward.

Production blocking is really common in face-to-face sessions. Virtual brainstorming can overcome this by reducing the influence of others. People can individually brainstorm their ideas on their own devices before sharing them with the group. It also allows participants time to generate their ideas before they are shared with the group. 

With a press of a single button, all ideas can be shared with all participants at the same time. This completely removes any distractions, hesitancy, or other similar influences.

Online Brainstorming Tools Help Build Effective Meeting Environments

Online brainstorming tools let people add their ideas free from fear if done anonymously. This in turn supports a psychologically safe space. 

In a traditional brainstorming session, people won’t put forward ideas if they are concerned about what others think. Gathering anonymous input using whiteboards, flipcharts, post-its and pens takes a lot of time. Ink color and handwriting are obvious clues as to who wrote what (even if a neutral facilitator does collect things up). If people don’t feel safe sharing their ideas, they won’t. 

Online brainstorming tools help to remove this concern as they allow for anonymous input.  People are then more likely to be open and honest with their responses. They will feel more comfortable sharing ideas they think may be controversial.

Online brainstorming tools also let people vote and rate ideas without bias from others. Again, this means people are protected from the opinions of others.

Online Brainstorming Increases Meeting Participation

The main reasons for this are – 

  • with clarity of process and purpose, people are more likely to be focused.
  • the fewer ideas that are ‘blocked’, the more ideas that can be captured.
  • the safer people feel, the more likely they are to engage.

Research has reflected this by comparing the performance of brainstorming groups. Online brainstorming sessions generate more high-quality ideas with a higher average of ideas per person than traditional methods. Studies have also shown that loose associations emerge more often during virtual brainstorming sessions. Not only that, and participants tend to be happier with their results. 

Ready to Run Your Own Online Brainstorming Session?

There are many benefits that online brainstorming templates, tools, and techniques bring to a meeting. They can help address issues that come with face-to-face sessions, foster a supportive environment and increase meeting participation. 

GroupMap is an easy-to-use online brainstorming tool that can help you deliver more effective meetings. You can start straight away with any one of the 80+ templates. 

Use GroupMap to run your next online brainstorm today.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

5 Reasons Why your Team should Start Virtual Brainstorming

virtual-session

Still thinking about reasons why your team should start virtual brainstorming?

We have access to an incredible array of technological developments that can change the way we work; from online collaborative tools and virtual workspaces, through to web-based mechanisms for team decision making.

With so many tools at our fingertips, it’s becoming easier to embrace an online workflow that fosters collaboration and enhances productivity.

Group brainstorming is no exception. In fact, in this Harvard Business Review article and meta-analysis, creative performance of virtual versus in person brainstorming sessions showed a different of almost 50% of a standard deviation and that “70% of participants can be expected to perform worse in traditional than virtual brainstorming sessions.”

Leading companies, agile teams, and workshop facilitators often use group brainstorming to create –

  • Solutions to challenges,
  • Answers for questions, and
  • An inspiration that sparks new products and ventures.

While group brainstorming can be an incredibly valuable mechanism, traditional brainstorming isn’t always effective. Indeed, traditional (face to face) brainstorming comes with inherent challenges such as –

  • A clash of egos
  • Groupthink and production blocking
  • Not all voices heard

All of which may negatively impact the quality of the decision the brainstorm was to inform. The great news is, there are effective online brainstorming tools that can help overcome these challenges. So if you’re wondering if your team should start virtual brainstorming, the answer is a very loud yes!

Here are five reasons why!

Why Should My Team Start Virtual Brainstorming?

Reason 1 – It creates a level playing field


Production blocking describes a context that happens when not all participants have the opportunity to speak up or contribute during traditional brainstorming.

There can be many reasons for this. There may be someone with a particularly dominant personality in the group who enjoys the spotlight. Several people may try to speak at once. An idea may be challenged before it is recorded. The group may become involved in a conversation and the idea forgotten before it is recorded.

Additionally, the ideas themselves may influence the information that is shared. Participants may anchor onto the first few ideas and start to converge onto a few thoughts rather than being able to share different perspectives.

Instances such as these limit idea generation.

With virtual brainstorming, each person in the group can share their ideas in real time, free from distraction and bias.

GroupMap, for example, allows people to brainstorm in real time individually, with ideas then being combined on the same brainstorming template. Similar ideas can be seen and grouped. 

The chance to brainstorm individually has allowed everyone to put their ideas forward and share those ideas then quickly inspire new ones.

Reason 2 – It supports a psychologically safe space


When people are apprehensive about a task, they are less likely to contribute effectively to that task.

In the case of traditional brainstorming, people may feel apprehensive because  –

  1. They may be uncomfortable speaking up in a group.
  2. They may be unsure of the subject or lack confidence in the validity of ideas.

To put it simply – they don’t feel safe.

With such apprehension present, the effectiveness of the brainstorming session could be impacted –

  1. Participants may limit their contributions to the brainstorming.
  2. Participants may self-edit ideas.

These behaviors aren’t deliberate, they are defense mechanisms people unconsciously activate when they encounter a situation in which they feel uncomfortable. They may limit or edit their ideas to lessen the likelihood of being called upon to explain what they meant or reduce the chance of their idea being challenged.

Virtual brainstorming tools often include simple features to hinder the activation of that personal defense mechanism.

Online brainstorming tools allow participants to contribute with full or partial anonymity. In doing so they are more likely to feel more confident about sharing their thoughts and suggestions with the group without feeling judged.

Allowing participants to contribute anonymously often increases  –

  • Participation and engagement rates.
  • The number of ideas generated.

That’s right when brainstorming anonymously, people feel safer, and therefore contribute more!

Reason 3 – Encourages a greater range of ideas


When you’re amongst a group of friends do you ever find yourself agreeing to something that you don’t really want to do? Perhaps heading to a restaurant you don’t particularly like or sitting through a movie you never wanted to see?

Why?

It’s most likely you find yourself in those situations because you want to keep the peace; those decisions aren’t a big deal so you just go with the flow and agree with the group.

You’ve just experienced groupthink – a phenomenon that sees a desire for harmony within a group of people strongly influencing the decisions of that group.

The same thing can happen when brainstorming with a group of people. Once one person sees an idea, they are less likely to share an opposing view. In fact, that idea may influence them to the extent that they suggest similar ideas.

Virtual brainstorming makes counteracting groupthink incredibly easy. It’s possible to manage the process of the brainstorm so that participants brainstorm separately before all ideas are shared (at the same time).

In addition to managing the process, virtual brainstorming tools offer a large variety of creative templates to spark thoughts, so participants aren’t just staring at a blank page. Changing up the templates is a great way to prompt participants and help them to consider different contexts. It’s also possible to adapt those templates (even mid-brainstorm!)

By compensating for groupthink and building a context to spark creativity, virtual brainstorming tends to encourage a far broader range of ideas than a traditional approach.

Reason 4 – Transparent decision making


When it comes to decision-making, transparency ensures those decisions are informed and equitable.

Transparency reduces opportunities for undue influence and bias; so decisions made via a transparent process are less likely to be challenged, and more likely to be accepted and trusted.

Unlike those reached via general discussion, decisions made using an appropriate virtual tool are more likely to be transparent simply because every step of the decision-making process can be captured, reviewed, and quantified.

An online brainstorming tool could allow all participants to prioritize ideas (color coding, positioning on a radar, ratings, rankings, etc) in order to surface those they perceive to be most important. Facilitators can then easily see if participants’ thoughts are aligned, or if different perspectives require exploration.

Features such as anonymous voting allow all participants the opportunity to opt for the ideas they wish, without others knowing how they voted. Again removing the likelihood of influence.

With all data captured, the passage of time (with our propensity for forgetfulness) doesn’t erode the legitimacy of the decision.

Reason 5 –  Faster, unbiased reporting


Virtual brainstorming side-steps the need to double handle information.

Unlike traditional brainstorming, there’s no need to copy ideas from sticky notes, flip charts, and whiteboards. WIth participants directly entering their ideas into the tool, there’s simply no need to retype them.

Because it’s digital, ideas don’t have to be limited to the few words that can be recorded on a post-it. Participants can comment on each other’s ideas, they can even add emojis and GIFs! Any grouping or voting on ideas is also instantly recorded, and there’s no risk of a miscount!

That direct entry of ideas also ensures that the participant’s idea or comment is represented as they intended, and not misrecorded or interpreted by someone jotting down the idea on their behalf.

Not only can inputs from a virtual brainstorming session be captured quickly and accurately, but the reports can also be used to assess the elements of the brainstorm.

GroupMap supports reports that can be generated based on a myriad of criteria (the process, the participants, the ideas, comments, and more).

Virtual brainstorming means there’s no need for a ‘scribe’ to capture ideas generated by the brainstorming process. It also means that the facilitator doesn’t need to spend hours compiling information post brainstorm.

The Bottom Line: Take Your Brainstorming Sessions to Another Level with Virtual Brainstorming


Shifting from traditional brainstorming to a virtual space allows team members to feel comfortable in creating more, broad-ranging ideas, that are quickly and objectively captured.

If you haven’t guessed it already and you’re keen to use effective brainstorming tools and techniques to take your team’s brainstorming sessions to another level, you’ve come to the right place.

GroupMap is an online brainstorming and group decision-making tool that helps improve the output and productivity of teams during brainstorming activities.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Patvocates Continues Cancer Advocacy Work with Online Brainstorming

patvocates

Patient Advocacy Group Looks Towards Online Brainstorming

jan-geissler-online-brainstorming-facilitator
Jan Geissler of Patvocates

The Patvocates Network is a consultancy, social enterprise and think tank on patient advocacy, health policy and patient engagement in medical research. 

The network believes that patients, carers, patient advocates and patient organisation representatives have unique knowledge and experiences to move towards truly patient-centered prevention, diagnosis treatment and care.

Patvocates works to make sure that patients have a seat at the table when healthcare decisions are taken.

The network is run by a team of leading pan-European patient advocates with extensive knowledge of pan-European healthcare systems, institutions, stakeholders, cultures and the pan-European patient community.

Jan Geissler is the CEO of Patvocates and one of the founding members of WECAN, the Workgroup of European Cancer Patient Advocacy Networks. 

“Patvocates provides unique insights, experience and connections in patient advocacy through to establish effective engagement frameworks, policies, processes and projects for patient advocacy groups, authorities, healthcare institutions and the private sector.”

 

The Move Towards Online Brainstorming & Virtual Meetings

digital solutions patcovates

The WECAN network consists of the 24 pan-European cancer patient advocacy umbrella organisations, with the leading patient advocates of these organisations spread all across Europe. 

The network usually does not have a budget to meet up in one place and conduct their brainstorming and advocacy work face-to-face. The COVID-19 pandemic also made travelling around Europe impossible.

However, the network still needed to meet to identify the challenges and impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients and patient organisations in terms of:

  • psychosocial and financial impact, 
  • patient management challenges, 
  • research-specific challenges and challenges of patient organisations.

“The network decided that brainstorming strategic discussions and prioritization needed to move to a virtual space.”

 

A Solution for engaging & flexible online meetings

WECAN-online-brainstorming-session

WECAN COVID Challenge session with GroupMap

To facilitate an online brainstorming session with WECAN beyond a teleconference, Jan looked at various digital tools. He also received a recommendation from GroupMap from his wider network.

“We then tested and liked the flexibility to set up interactive brainstorming and mapping tools instantly for different purposes.”

“We ran a couple of tests in our community and really liked ease of set-up and use, so even those with little technical affinity were able to use it instantly.”

 

Ease of use & ability to contribute anytime, anywhere

Jan explained the process that the network used for their most recent online brainstorming using GroupMap

  1. Participants were first provided with a step by step guide on how to use GroupMap.
  2. The participants first defined the four pillars of impact of COVID-19 on patients and patient organisations and created these pillars using a custom map:
    • psychosocial and financial impact, 
    • patient management challenges, 
    • research-specific challenges and
    • challenges of patient organisations
  3. The facilitator then asked the leaders of the 24 patient umbrellas to brainstorm on the key issues in those four areas.
  4. The moderators then grouped, rephrased and rearranged the contributions.
  5. The community was then invited to rate all factors in terms of impact on their patient community. The ratings on GroupMap helped showcase the spread of opinions on each factor – whether the community agreed on the impact of that factor, or whether there was a wide spread of responses between very unimportant to very impactful. 

The simplicity of using GroupMap was a main benefit to the network as it made it easy for the patient community and WECAN’s Non-Government Organisations partners to use the digital tool. 

Jan also indicated that it was great to be able to continue the online brainstorm and add to it over a period of 14 days. This also helped to get the ideas and innovation from the key advocates who were not able to attend the set meeting times. 

Brainstorming with GroupMap
Brainstorming ideas under categories with GroupMap

“Ease of use, and the opportunity to use asynchronously over a longer period of time – so people could either contribute during a teleconference or in the week after if they couldn’t make it – were benefits we all appreciated from using GroupMap for our online brainstorming.”

 

Focus on contribution & content

From WECAN’s perspective, the online brainstorming session allowed their network of 24 member organizations to still be able to work collaboratively to get data that informed their actions on how to improve cancer patient care in light of COVID-19 challenges. 

“Evidence-based advocacy, supporting our opinions with data that represents the opinion of our wide community, is a key tool we use, and GroupMap helps us to collect priorities and opinions in a well structured way in a very timely fashion.”

From the participants’ perspective, the overall feedback was that the GroupMap is really straightforward and easy to use. This resulted in removing technology barriers or fears. Instead everyone could focus on contribution and content.

rating online brainstorming ideas with GroupMap
Rating ideas with participants using GroupMap

“ really makes our advocacy work much easier at times where we can’t travel and meet, and where talking on a teleconference is just not enough.”

“It helps to interact in a well-structured way, complement and collect our ideas, and find out what is most important. I have not seen similar tools like this before which are so easy to use.”

 

Want to try GroupMap for FREE?

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online collaboration tool for FREE for 14 days today. 

Online Brainstorming Helps Little Diversified Architectural Consulting Sustain a Strong Culture Across Countries

little-online-brainstorm-culture-facilitator
Nikki Clinton and Rich Glenny of Little

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.

online brainstorm result
Little’s result from an online brainstorming session with teams across 5 offices

 

“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. 

little-virtual-brainstorm-results-with-groupmap
Little Response to using GroupMap

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.” 

 

Want to try GroupMap for FREE? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online collaboration tool for FREE for 14 days today. 

Outcomes from student engagement in collaborative brainstorming.

Outcomes from student engagement in collaborative brainstorming

Educators in the 21st century know learning is enhanced by getting students to engage collaboratively, contribute ideas and to provide targeted, specific feedback from online brainstorming tools through to richer facilitated classroom discussions. The transition does not require a re-writing of curriculum, a redesign of tasks or having to spend copious amounts of time generating new content. It can be as simple as letting go of a control-oriented mindset to one that guides and helps students accelerate their own learning.

Moving from being the ‘sage on the stage’ to a flipped classroom where students become independent learners who work as a collaborative cohort has been the main benefit experienced by Sophie Giles from the University of Western Australia. Rather than having students simply sit and listen, she has been able to get 88 to 92% of students to actively contribute to learning outcomes with 300 students over a 3 year period. Getting such high levels of engagement has been shared by her colleagues and reflected in student evaluations.

Giles is the Head of the Department of Architecture, Landscape and Urban Design at the University of Western Australia. She has worked as an Architect on projects ranging from residential luxury fit-outs to renovations and extensions. She teachers in a blended learning classroom where students are challenged with applying ‘real-life’ codes to their current design projects, they are also given opportunities to contribute collaboratively. 

 

Students undertake four extensive site visits, in order to analyze, explore and evaluate a building. Then across the term, thoughts, images and resources would be added by each student, branching out from a central theme. The goal is to understand the construction of the building from practical features, relevant building codes, services provisions, through to material choices 

 

Student-centric teaching philosophy and collaborative mind mapping

As with any great educator, her goal is to engage students, allowing them to contribute and share ideas and to deepen their learning through interactivity and collaboration. Whilst Giles is an experienced Architect in the industry and could easily note the key features and design elements from a site visit, her goal to deliver a more student-centric, socialized, and engaged learning experience meant she had to find the right solution. “I used to define the top 10 terms from each site visit, prepare the material and then have to broadcast these as the ‘sage on the stage’.”

 

Image courtesy of Sophie Giles

“I wanted to increase contributions by all students,” Giles explains, “specifically the goal was to encourage much more detailed content, by many. an increased investment, by the students, in the co-creation of content.” This is a great way not just to get students engaged, but also deepen and socialize the learning experience.

 Giles uses a collaborative mind map format for students to share architectural content and to brainstorm online having conducted a site visit. She elaborates, “Importantly, for the architectural content, I needed the students to have the ability to upload images and files, so each ‘mind-map’ is a rich repository of co-created content. GroupMap does this better than any other platform.” As Giles shares, “we have an excellent digital platform and a place, outside of the tutorial room,  in which we all come together to contribute, synchronously and asynchronously.”


Giles has used GroupMap in the core unit ARCT4430 in the Master of Architecture for the last 3 years. “Each year has had around 100 participants. So over 300 students have created at least 30 separate mind-maps.” she highlights.”The ease of use for students, the clarity of the page and the ability for students to search for appropriate images to illustrate and communicate are really useful features… Very little resistance by students in immediately embracing the platform, as they could see how easy it was to use and the benefit they receive from contributing to help grow the content together.”

Forrest Hall, University of Western Australia. Kerry Hill Architects, construction by Jaxon

 

Now, rather than simply telling students what the top ten terms are Giles states that “now the students are contributing 50-100 terms together, curating these and learning from each other with such a level of engagement and appreciation” This 5x to 10x multiple in terms of familiarizing students with terminology, understandingand developing the vocabulary of the discipline all demonstrates the power of harnessing the wisdom of the crowd. 

Of course, it is important to give feedback to students, ensure accountability and to be able to differentiate between student contributions. Giles explains, “ I monitor the maps and comment on student contributions to validate them, as well as mention them in face to face settings during the lecture or tutorial if there are particular posts which are detailed and content-rich.” She continues, “the list of contributors in each map has also been really helpful to keep track of who has been active and engaged, and who has not.”Giles also appreciates how quick it is to use and set up which she says is “also another great benefit and remarkably helpful in the pre-term crush of preparation.” 

Insights into students brainstorming ideas online

Giles elaborates her observation as to  how students engage with GroupMap, “the timing of their posts, which have been in the hours directly after a site visit and prior to a lecture and tutorial the following day has given them each a reflective outlet that is not onerous to engage with.” She continues, ”often the students are posting or contributing at around 8-10pm and then the following day will then more deeply read through the other material that has been contributed, saving links, ‘liking’ or curating the mind-map. This double use reflection has remarkable benefits in the retention of this newly gained knowledge.” 

 

“The students then use their co-created ‘maps’ later in the semester to revise from and to draw on for further information in their own assessments. In the three years I have used GroupMap the contributions have always been voluntary by the students in the unit, but each year only 4-6% of students have not contributed anything, with the majority (88-92%) contributing to each of the maps across the semester. I am really appreciative of the strengthened learning that the GroupMap platform has availed to my 300 students over this time.” Giles explains.

Digital environments can have positive impacts on student creativity and idea generation but it does require guidance and structure to help proliferate and promote the process in a non-intrusive, but moderated fashion. Giles’s love of digital, online collaborative brainstorming ensures that students have a safe space to contribute and receive feedback allows for ideas to proliferate and for learning to be both visible to all and evident.

 

Image courtesy of Sophie Giles

By using the number of students in the cohort to each contribute on the remarkably easy to use Groupmap mind-map platform, the depth and scope of content each week grows enormously. When previously I would have selected and prepared the ‘top ten’ terms each week to broadcast, the students now contribute their own, coupled with links and images. This has increased the content by more than ten times, while being relatively quick and easy to use for the students. This is work I don’t need to do. 

For the students this increased content is then also about inclusion, engagement and investment through this co-created knowledge. My role in moderating the contributions is really easy and enjoyable and can be done synchronously or asynchronously while the students are posting.  

The contributions by all students, including those who in face-face classes have a much quieter presentation is really successful, with appreciation of each others contributions in a ‘safe-space’ digital platform, without any anxiety of a tutorial setting. I am so glad GroupMap has helped me to find these benefits to the students in their learning and their investment in co-creation. – Giles

 

Sophie Giles’s TIPS for building student engagement

  • You can easily scan the map for unread comments so it’s an excellent function to streamline moderation of pages and to give feedback.
  • Use the reports to gauge engagement in your student cohort. This will allow you to positive reinforce excellent contributions as well as put in strategies to address students who may not be engaging, struggling or lacking confidence.
  • Giving students the freedom to contribute their findings. They learn so much more when given the opportunity to develop and apply the knowledge to real life situations.
  • Creating maps is easy and a real time saver because students are in charge of co-creating content and it allows you to manage knowledge gaps rather than having to prepare content all the time.
  • Having an artefact of learning from a site visit and activity is a great reflective outlet as well as a useful revision piece for students to help them retain the newly gained knowledge.

Sophie Giles is the Head of Department (Architecture, Landscape Architecture + Urban Design) in the School of Design, coordinating and teaching in Design as well as Architectural Technology in the Master of Architecture. Sophie has worked in an award-winning Australian practice since registering as an architect, and is now a director of her own practice. In all of her work she is passionate about design and the realising of design in physical form.

Very much a ‘hands-on’ architect, she developed a Master of Architecture elective Built Work to enable final year students to construct 1:1 details, to understand ‘the great works’ in their physical form as well as their theoretical place. She was a member Australian team felix._Giles_Anderson+Goad for the Biennale di Venezia, 2014, working closely with the AIA. As a Fay Gale Fellow she was a visiting academic to ETH-Zurich and the Graduate Emtech Program at the Architectural Association in London.

In her recent sabbatical she has been researching tall-timber structures, structural optimisation to massively reduce material waste in construction as well establishing an open source multilingual construction glossary for increased internationalisation of the curriculum.  Her recent connections with academics, architects and engineers in China, Japan, Finland and the US will help in the capacity building of the School and community engagement of the University.

Learn more about the School of Design at the University of Western Australia.

Inspired? Create your own online brainstorming activity for your classroom.

Facilitation tools and techniques for critical thinking at a Teacher’s PD workshop.

Case Background

 

Organizing workshops and brainstorming sessions can be a daunting task. If engagement levels are not high, people start to get bored. The fast-paced audience of the 21st Century demands real-time sharing of ideas to get more meaningful discussions. 

 


This case study shows how GroupMap was used by Teach for Australia (TFA) to facilitate a week-long professional development program for 80 associates and 3 workshop facilitators with multiple concurrent sessions and a range of group brainstorming, discussion and idea-sharing activities. These events are designed to cultivate learning and the acquisition of new skills, tools, and knowledge that empower associates to become more effective teachers and community leaders.

Teach for Australia is an innovative non-profit organization that aims to address the dilemma of educational disadvantage in Australia by providing all children, regardless of their background, with quality educational opportunities. 

 

They offer extensive programming and resources to both train and give support to up-and-coming teachers and leaders. These activities blend academic practice, with on-site mentoring, practical learning, and leadership development. 

 

Using GroupMap’s highly customizable tools, TFA was able to easily assist with fulfilling a wide array of tasks from scheduling of activities, generating discussion over key topics, uploading and sharing of resources, to a voting system to determine the best pitch. GroupMap addresses these demands to ensure everybody can participate without fear or worry.

Workshop and event goals

After speaking with TFA facilitators, three main goals were identified: 

  1. Provide trainers with a better way to facilitate idea sharing sessions using a range of different teaching strategies. 
  2. Create an easy way for all of the 80 participants and facilitators to share and access teaching resources. 
  3. Use a digital platform that encourages critical, creative and collaborative thinking.

Creating a Student-Focused, Collaborative Experience

With GroupMap, TFA was able to enhance their workshop using unique tools that provided real-time feedback and allowed better engagement.  Here’s how they did it!

1. An easy schedule to plan workshop activities

With GroupMap’s intuitive interface, the organizers at TFA found an easy way to plan the workshop sessions and activities, as well as share the learning materials for each session. According to Adelheid Stelter, Teaching and Leadership Adviser at TFA:

The first map we created was a schedule, outlining daily sessions… Under the individual session tabs, we then uploaded any resources needed, e.g., pre-reading articles, handouts, PowerPoint presentations or links to relevant web pages. This calendar could be accessed by all participants… was also very useful to participants for catch-up purposes…

The participants, on the other hand, found it easier to access the resources they needed including links to websites, videos, Boxx, Youtube and other resources.

 

2. Customized workshop templates for break out activities. 

TFA facilitators wanted to create a broad range of activities, such as analyzing journal articles, considering the pros and cons of assessment strategies and brainstorming and exploring alternatives and choices for classroom management case studies.



 

For each of these sessions, they were able to choose an appropriate map from GroupMap’s extensive template library and then customize it to fit the activity.  


As Stelter points out, “Each session facilitator employed a suitable map for their activities, be it a SWOT analysis of teaching resources or strategies, a brainstorm, a connect-extend-challenge reflection or a check for understanding activity such as claim, explain, question.”

 

Each template also had organized headings so people knew what was needed, could their thoughts more easily, and thus add their ideas in a more orderly fashion. These maps were run across several concurrent sessions to capture activity which could later be compared and shared in a large group setting.

 

Unlike post-it notes and butcher’s papers which could only be seen by a small handful of people, the fact that ideas were instantly collected and shared to everyone’s screens allowed everyone to see and learn from each other. This helped to both encourage greater participation and interest. Not to mention it also saved loads of time since someone did not have to retype all the handwritten notes.

 

One interesting session significantly enhanced by GroupMap’s platform was the “pitch night”. To encourage innovation in the classroom, the activity called on teachers to pitch their ideas for educational advancement to their peers. The winning presenters then received a cash prize to help bring those ideas to life. 

Their peers in the audience were able to listen to the pitch and share comments and feedback via their mobiles. At the end of the round of pitches, they could then vote for their favorite top 3 ideas. The results were tallied in real-time to determine the winner while the other presenters received valuable feedback and support on their ideas.

3. Collaborative resource sharing. 

Another big benefit TFA found when using GroupMap for their professional development workshop was that it allowed them to create a space for everyone to add and share teaching resources across subject areas and year levels. 

Participants were able to break out into their discipline areas and share their ideas for particular subjects. 

In the end, the associates had built up a resource library of subject resources that made it easier to plan their upcoming semester. This meant that each associate saved a tremendous amount of time and stress in terms of planning and gathering resources to help them plan for the term ahead.

 

 

 

Extending the Benefits

For the facilitators, the data was also particularly helpful for after-workshop reviews. “As facilitators, we downloaded reports and could see how many ideas each participant contributed and what those ideas were. GroupMap is a most valuable tool for assessment…”, states Stelter. Being able to monitor and record participation levels allowed them to implement strategies to improve future engagement among participants.

The benefits of using GroupMap are still seen even after the workshop ended. According to Stelter , TFA now has a resource depository where all the participants can continue to share and discuss ideas, strategies, resources and support beyond the seven-day training: “Following the Intensive, participants continue to share and draw ideas from this page. an excellent way of fostering a sharing teacher community spirit.”

Using GroupMap also allowed both facilitators and participants to experience firsthand the platform’s powerful teaching tools and applications, such as the virtual whiteboard and brainstorming tool, many of which can be used to enhance education in the classroom. “GroupMap… has wide applications across all aspects of teacher education as well as in-school and classroom practice. GroupMap fills a definite gap in teaching and learning practice as a partner in students’ cognitive development,” concludes Stelter.

 

Want to Learn More?

Our award-winning online collaborative brainstorming and group decision-making platform are designed to help people think better together. Use GroupMap for your next meeting, workshop or event. With our unique tools, customizable maps, easy-to-use recording and reporting, you can be sure that you and your team succeed in achieving your event outcomes. 

 

Start your 14-day free trial today, or contact us with any questions. 

.

Is Group Brainstorming Really a Complete Waste of Time?

Imagine this.

You are that meeting which just seems to go on forever. People have been talking but there is no sign of a decision being made in the near future. The quiet team members have been watching the more outspoken, and at the end of it all, the manager says that should put a few things down and reconvene. As you leave, you think “That was a bloody waste of time!” Sounds familiar? You are not alone. While brainstorming remains a key part of meetings, traditional methods are fraught with dysfunction. It’s no wonder that the average office worker spends 61% of their meeting time writing emails or searching for information.

The costs of a bad meeting

With 1/3 of the 11 million meetings held every day considered unproductive by American Workers (Romano & Nunamaker), of which 5% are specifically related to brainstorming online or face to face, that equates to a staggering $1.154Bn in meeting costs. Closer to home, each meeting you hold is a factor of each person’s salary multiplied by the amount of time spent. Every time you have to “meet again” this simply doubles the cost. While electronic meeting tools and online brainstorming software exist, some still revert to manual processes like sticky notes and butchers’ paper in an attempt to create engagement. Beyond just the material costs and manual work, the time lag and the context shift form part of the hidden costs of ineffective meetings.

The good and bad of group brainstorms

Alex Osborn touted that group brainstorming produces 50% more results than individual brainstorming, grounding them in the following principles.
  • Initially, no judgement or criticism is allowed
  • Go first for quantity of ideas
  • Prioritize the most unusual or original
  • Combine and refine ideas
However, since the 1950s additional research has demonstrated that the effects of groupthink, reticence, dominance, anchoring and just the basic lack of focus impede on the effectiveness of group brainstorming. Chamorro-Premuzic, in his article “Why Group Brainstorming is a Waste of Time”, adds the issues of social loafing, social anxiety, regression to the mean and production blocking. Despite this, he states the benefit distributed expertise and improving buy-in and subsequent implementation by everyone in the team due to its democratic style. Finally, one of the key issues is the lack of decision making – or where the decision is not well evidenced or hidden in some minute resolution. Given this, we need to add to the best way to brainstorm list.

The potential of online collaboration brainstorming software

Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” wrote in the New York Times that: “The only exception to group brainstorming’s’ dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems with group work. It’s a place where we can be alone together – and this is precisely what gives it power.” Online brainstorming can be a way to set the scene, measure engagement, democratize decision making, and allow everyone to contribute equally with results published in real-time. These tools can be integrated into online meeting tools or video conferences to create even better outcomes.

Tips for a great team brainstorming meeting

Here’s a quick mental checklist for a productive, effective team meeting – ready?
  • We are clear about the objectives and goals.
  • We have invited the right people to solve the problem.
  • We have a basic structure to follow through.
  • We have the logistics (tech, food, room etc) organised.
  • We know how the meeting will be facilitated.
  • There are relevant decision points during our meeting.
  • We have a follow-up point after the meeting.

decision-making-process

For those using GroupMap for real-time collaborative online brainstorming, check out our infographic below on getting the best out of your sessions.

Want more ideas to make your next meeting fun, quirky or creative? Join in and contribute to this GroupMap below or check out our infographic.