6 Easy Ways GroupMap can Level Up your Online Brainstorming Meeting


Online brainstorming sessions are an effective way to gather ideas and spark discussion. However, facilitators can sometimes find it challenging to support participant engagement and productivity due to the virtual environment. 

Being well-prepared can help you navigate the challenges of the virtual environment and allow you to focus more on generating creative ideas.

Just what is online brainstorming?

Online brainstorming is virtual idea-generating and problem-solving. It’s often a collaborative process where individuals think of new and innovative ideas or create solutions.

Online brainstorming sessions provide a way for participants to get involved and contribute their thoughts and perspectives, even if they aren’t able to participate in an in-person brainstorming session due to distance, where they are located or time zone. 

As with in person brainstorming, facilitators guide the process while creating an environment that fosters safety, creativity and innovation. Similarly, facilitators ensure the session is productive so that it leads to effective problem-solving and decision-making.

Online brainstorming has the advantages of allowing anonymous and independent brainstorming which means each person is free to contribute without fear. It can also remove bias when people simply anchor to a specific idea. There are also time-saving benefits by reducing production blocks, and not having to re-write those sticky notes again at the end of the session.

Challenges of online brainstorming

Although online brainstorming can deliver a number of benefits, it can come with a unique set of challenges. These include: 

Adapting to new technology

As more people host their brainstorming sessions online, more online tools become available that offer greater convenience and better visualization of ideas. 

Interestingly, one of the common issues faced when using these tools is adaptability. While they may often offer great features, they may not include an intuitive or easily used interface. The need to learn new software may end up affecting the brainstorming session. 

Distractions leading to lack of participation

With participants working remotely or from a non-traditional workspace, there may be distractions in the background that could be disruptive. Similarly, participants may misuse the virtual environment and multi-task. Participants may not be as attentive or engaged in the session. This could lead to reduced quality and quantity of ideas being produced. 

Managing the discussion and the focus

The virtual environment may mean there is a lag in communication. This makes it difficult to maintain the momentum of a conversation. 

As well as this, discussions could also go off-topic and move away from the goal of the discussion. One participant may also dominate the whole session or there is a need to manage a large volume of ideas and conversations. Generating ideas (divergent thinking) needs to be balanced with consensus building (convergent thinking). This can be trickier over a camera lens. 

Communication barriers

As the brainstorming session is online and not physical, it may be difficult to understand one another over the devices as well as unable to interpret non-verbal communication. 

It’s possible these factors could adversely affect an online brainstorming session. However, if a facilitator is prepared, they can easily address these matters to ensure a successful and productive online brainstorming session. 

Here are some handy tricks and tips to side-step the challenges. 

How can you level up your online brainstorming sessions?

1. Choosing the right tools 

There is a huge array of tools available online that you can utilize to encourage participation and engagement. 

Here are three must-try tools to ensure an efficient and productive session: 

Video conferencing – Nowadays, there is a wide range of video conferencing software available. Possibly the most popular being MS Teams and Zoom. Each has their own features to set them apart allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs. Other video conferencing applications include Slack, Google Meet, and WebEx Meetings. 

Brainstorming – GroupMap is a great tool as it has over 80+ templates that you can choose from which lets you visualize your team’s ideas and collaborate effectively. GroupMap’s templates can be incredibly useful, especially if you are struggling to organize your team’s thoughts and ideas or are new to hosting these online brainstorming sessions. These templates can work as a guide to spark discussions, ensure everyone has had a chance to contribute and keep the conversation focused on the topic at hand. 

Task Management – You can then also use planning and scheduling tools such as Trello or Linear where you can begin to implement the ideas into actuality and create relevant tasks. 

If you like to learn more about other online tools, read our blog post.

2. Set clear objectives 

As a facilitator, your role is to guide the online brainstorming session and foster collaboration and engagement, which should effectively result in maximum efficiency and productivity. To achieve this, you should clearly define the objective of the brainstorming session and share it with all the participants beforehand. This ensures everyone is on the same page, can prepare ahead of time, and contribute effectively.

Having your objective at the forefront during the brainstorming session acts as a handy reminder for everyone.


3. Use structure

Providing structure to the brainstorming can prove extremely beneficial as it will not only keep everyone on track with the session’s goal but also assist in organizing their thoughts and ideas.

This is where templates can be really helpful. A Corrective Action Plan, 4P Marketing Mix or  Startup Canvas, for example, can step through discussions and help in reaching solutions.

All of GroupMap templates are customizable so you are able to change the template according to your specifications and tailor it to meet the session’s goals.

You can define the flow of your meeting with a structure that works for you. You can select, customize and order the steps as you need to cater for your specific audience and purpose.

If your online brainstorming sessions usually occur over a period of time, you can build out separate templates for each session and make them specific to that session’s goals. As you progress further, you can keep modifying accordingly.


4. Encourage participation

It is important to ensure participants feel secure to express their ideas, thoughts and concerns. As a facilitator, you can do this by making use of techniques such as round-robin, where everyone gets an equal chance to make a common and provide an idea. Similarly, try to intervene when you think the conversation is going off-topic and bring it back to the initial discussion point.

Another way you can increase engagement is to ask people’s thoughts on the ideas that have been contributed – kind of like an intermission or check-in where everyone can reflect on what has been produced till now. GroupMap has a feature where when conducting an online brainstorming session, participants can be asked to rate, review or vote on the ideas that have been added to a template. (These polls and results are easily savable and can be exported for later use). This is particularly great as the polls and the results can be visually seen on the map being used by the team!

5. Keep a record of all ideas and share them after the session for people to reflect and build upon them.

All ideas that are generated during the online brainstorming session should be recorded and shared with all participants after the discussion has ended. This is even easier to do now that the sessions are done online as you can make use of various tools that save all comments and changes made to a document.

This is a feature GroupMap offers where any ideas added to a template are saved and referred back to if needed. You can then export the ideas, along with any polling results, which can then be shared with the participants for their reflection and to build upon each other’s ideas.

This is particularly important because if there are any technical difficulties faced and the online session may need to be cut short, having a record of the ideas will help to go back to it in the next session and not lose any content generated. 

6. Follow up

Last but not the least, after the online brainstorming session, follow up with all participants to ensure action items are assigned and progress is being made. As mentioned previously, making use of work scheduling tools such as Trello, Monday.com or Asana, ensures the ideas are then implemented and acted upon. 

If you’re wanting to level up your next online brainstorming meeting, why not try the above tips and tricks? Let us know how you go!

Start leveling up your online brainstorming meetings today.

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Remote Brainstorming and Collaboration Tool Helps to Enrich Engagement and Learning


With the aim of improving the way their community discusses complex issues in order to arrive at better decisions, the Colorado State University Centre for Public Deliberation is an impartial resource for the local northern Colorado community, that is able to assist local government, schools, and community organizations in problem-solving key issues.

Core to the CPD’s process is working with partners to invite those affected by the issue ‘into the room’ where students trained in small group facilitation guide participants through sometimes challenging conversations.

So, what happens when no one is leaving their own home let alone stepping foot into ‘the room’?

As a result of the pandemic, like many other organizations, the CPD needed to quickly pivot and take those conversations online without eroding their effectiveness.  

Professor Martin Carcasson, the Director of the CPD and a Communication Studies academic, shared with us how he and his team used GroupMap to embrace the challenges they faced and realized the opportunities offered by online facilitation with GroupMap.

Since 2006 the CPD has served its community through its efforts to enhance local democracy. They work with their city and county governments, school districts, and community organizations to increase the capacity needed to address difficult shared problems, and elevate the overall quality of conversation and engagement regarding those issues.

It has done so by creating open spaces for citizens to come together equipped with information and skilled facilitators to explore important issues relating to community problem solving and public decision making.

The CPD trains Colorado State University undergraduate students as facilitators; their team of 30 can turn an audience of around 100 participants into small groups, thereby paving the way for vastly different conversations to take place and avoiding the problematic experience of participants speaking one at a time at a microphone and simply talking past each other.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, the majority of the CPD’s small group discussions happened in person.

“Covid obviously forced us to quickly adapt and move online,” said Professor Carcasson “though, as a silver lining, it fast forwarded everyone’s comfort with online meetings, so it actually opened up a lot of opportunities for us”.

“As we looked into various options of software to use to assist with our processes once we moved online, we learned about GroupMap, and it seemed the best fit to what we needed.”

“I came across GroupMap in two ways at about the same time. I was helping a local facilitator, Chris Hutchinson of the Trebuchet Group, with a project, and he used GroupMap. I also had a graduate student with the CPD do a project last semester exploring various online platforms for synchronous engagement which led to the NCDD Online Engagement Showcase. GroupMap was one of the platforms that participated in that event.”

Easier group discussions that deliver deeper engagement

In addition to making the online transition easier, GroupMap helped address other challenges associated with group engagement.

“The problem with small groups, however, is you are limited in the natural diversity (demographic and viewpoint) of the group, and participants are always curious what is going on with the rest of the participants.”

Prior to their use of GroupMap, the CPD used an audience response system during in person events whereby participants submitted responses to questions using a small handset. To connect the large group and small group processes, multiple choice questions were posed that the whole group could answer and then respond to in the small group. However, this approach was limited to the multiple choice format.

The CPD then switched to an online service that used participants’ smart phones, which meant participants could respond to open ended questions. Although this allowed the CPD to move beyond a multiple-choice structure, the response flow remained rigidly one-way.


Meaningful Online Conversations

“As we moved online, we saw GroupMap as a much more flexible and interactive version of this. It allows us to not only get input from the large group, but people can also comment on each other’s ideas, as well as voting and prioritizing those ideas”.

Professor Carcasson’s work aims to allow people to express their opinions, then interact with each other’s ideas and work to elevate those that are stronger. He notes that while GroupMap facilitates both of these endeavors, he perceives the second is crucial.

With this in mind, Professor Carcasson aligns his group and map management to bring the greatest value to his discussions.

“We have successfully used GroupMap with Zoom breakouts to have small group discussions with multiple groups on the same map.”

“We like small discussion groups of around six to eight, but GroupMap groups of around 40, so maybe five to six small groups per map. We have student facilitators in each group helping explain things and spark discussion, while a separate facilitator watches the map. We have run some processes with 120 people, so we had numerous small groups but four separate maps. It enabled us to collect wonderful ideas and get have people prioritize and engage.”

“One map template I’ve created and used a lot is a Polarity Map, based on the work by Barry Johnson. GroupMap has been very helpful for me to help people create polarity maps and for me to have a place to brainstorm and refine my maps.”

“GroupMap helped participants see more ideas from the entire room – not just those generated in their small group – while also likely working better for introverts that prefer to write than speak. I think that is a critical aspect of GroupMap, since most of our processes are inherently biased toward extroverts that like to think out loud and can dominate processes. GroupMap provides some nice balance to that situation.”

Overall, GroupMap has had a positive impact on the work of Professor Carcasson and his team.

Enriching learning with asynchronous collaborations

Professor Carcasson has continued to innovate with GroupMap.

“In terms of my teaching, GroupMap has been very useful to integrate synchronous and asynchronous work. I like to have my students engage the readings between classes and start the conversation online, so then our in-class discussions can be much richer. Doing that well has always been a challenge, and GroupMap has provided new strategies that have worked very well so far.”

“One other thing we’ve done that I really liked that GroupMap facilitated was engaging alumni of our program (or, alternatively, allowing people not at the initial meeting to react to and contribute to an exercise). We have a facilitation training exercise in which students react to a variety of problematic statements and design a response to reframe them. We used GroupMap to collect the initial ideas and have people respond or talk through them. I was also able to send the link to our alumni through social media, which allowed them all to engage.”

The CPD has found the response to GroupMap has been very positive.

“The fact that people can publicly see the information and can be sent a view link afterwards to engage it is also important to transparency.”

“Students have enjoyed GroupMap because it is a significant improvement upon writing a paragraph response on the reading at the course website. I use a single map to ask questions like –

  • What is something that you want to talk about more?
  • What is something you disagree with or want to push back on or didn’t make sense?
  • What is something that gave you an Aha moment during the reading?
  • What questions do you have?

Students populate the four questions between classes, and the night before, I ask them to all rank which responses they most want to discuss in class. I use that ranking to finalize the class discussion and process.”

GM Written with the kind collaboration of Professor Martin Carcasson Director of the CPD.

The 7 Secrets of Productive Meetings


Productive meetings deliver useful outcomes within a set timeframe. They are purposeful spaces in which – 

  • people quickly connect and collaborate.
  • time and effort are well spent.
  • good decisions are made.

The best thing about productive meetings is that everyone seems to appreciate them. They tend to be a morale booster. People leave them with a shared sense of purpose and a greater connection to their team.

As much as we like them, productive meetings are less common than you’d expect. In fact, when Harvard Business School surveyed 182 senior managers about meetings, 71% said meetings were unproductive.

So why aren’t we getting the most out of our meetings?

Well, there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, meeting facilitation is a skill not everyone has. Then there is the constant change to the way we communicate in the workplace. A change that may not have been effectively shifted into the meeting space. Finally, productive meetings take preparation, which means time and effort. Let’s face it, both are often in short supply in most organizations.

Life’s too short to waste it sitting in unproductive meetings. So here are some of the tried and tested methods we use to deliver productive meetings.

1. A Meeting can Only be Productive if it’s Needed

The idea of simply not having a meeting isn’t considered often enough.

You wouldn’t water a garden if it’s been raining for three days straight. So why do we head into meetings when we have nothing to discuss? If a report that’s needed for a meeting isn’t ready. If key people aren’t available. If input, guidance, or approvals aren’t needed. Then don’t have a meeting.

Similarly, if an effective alternative to the meeting can be used, use it! 

While years ago it was simpler and cheaper to hand out copies of a report in person, that’s no longer the case. Information can be circulated in a number of faster, cheaper ways. 

If an issue only requires the input of one other person, it can be discussed without a meeting. There’s no need to have others sitting in the same room to witness it. 

Canceling a meeting is unlikely to upset people. Far from it! People will appreciate that you are considerate of their time and glad they can redirect their energies elsewhere.

2.  A Productive Meeting is an Organised Meeting

There are two things to consider when organizing a meeting – 

  • An agenda
  • A meeting space

First, let’s consider the agenda.

Agendas are a really helpful meeting tool that is important in all sorts of ways. They can help plan meetings. They can help facilitate meetings. They can help document meetings. Importantly, agendas increase meeting productivity. 

Agendas list what will be covered when and by whom. They can increase a meeting’s productivity by –

  • helping people get organized and prepared.
  • setting time limits. 
  • focussing discussions.

Sending out an agenda helps people organize their schedules. People can also prepare for the topics that the meeting will cover. This means the meeting time itself is more likely to be used productively.

Agendas can help people make the most of their time. They reduce the influence of Parkinson’s Law. This is when a task takes as long to finish as the time allocated to it. They also help the meeting facilitator monitor discussions. This helps to make sure conversations are focused, and therefore more likely to be productive.

Secondly, the meeting space.

If you’re running a face-to-face meeting you need a room. It needs to be big enough to hold the number of people who will be at the meeting and include any equipment that might be needed. Assuming a space will be available is a big mistake. Waiting for someone to find a room is not a great way to start a meeting.

Similarly, if you’re delivering an online meeting you need an online space. Everyone attending the meeting needs to be able to access the space. It also needs to be able to work alongside any online tools or templates needed to facilitate the meeting. This time, the productivity killer comes from assuming everyone knows how to engage in the online space. So it’s helpful to run a practice meeting to make sure everyone is comfortable with the technology that will be used.

Running a hybrid meeting? You’ll need to make sure you have both a physical and virtual space.

3. Ground Rules Provide a Solid Foundation

Just like the rules of the road, meeting ground rules ensure everyone knows –

  • the limits they need to stick to
  • what they can expect of others
  • what is expected of them

Meetings that have ground rules are more likely to run on time and achieve their purpose. Not only do ground rules create more productive meetings, but they also deliver other benefits. We discuss ground rules, including how to write them, in more detail here.

4. Productive Meetings Include Follow Through

Imagine you’ve just emerged from a fantastic meeting. It finished on time. You worked through everything on the agenda. Sure, there was dissent, but it was healthy dissent that led to an even better solution. Then, following the meeting, nothing progressed. Was that time really spent productively?

Nothing undermines a good meeting quite like a lack of follow-through. So to make the most of a meeting – 

  • ensure meeting notes are captured.
  • shape action points.

Make sure someone acts as the meeting’s scribe. They can capture the key outputs of the meeting that are then shared at its end. 

Shape action points as part of the meeting. Good action points – 

  • are clear, precise, and specific.
  • start with a verb.
  • include a due date.
  • are assigned to someone.
  • are reported at the next meeting.

Lastly, ensure people follow up on their actions before the next meeting. Send out a list of agreed action points a week before the next meeting. It’s a good way to remind people of what they were meant to do.

5. Keep an Eye on the Time

Time is a limited resource. Productive meetings make the most of the time allocated to them.

Align the meeting to a productive time of day. Some groups may work best in the mornings. Others may be more focused after lunch.  

Include an allocation of time for each topic on the agenda. This allows facilitators to shut down conversations that are off track or over time. The time allocations have given them permission to act. 

Make sure someone is given the job of timing each topic. They can give a warning bell a minute before people are to move on to the next topic. 

6. Many Hands Make Productive Work

We’ve already mentioned some of the roles that can increase a meeting’s productivity. A facilitator, a scribe, and a timekeeper. While it’s often very tempting to allocate them all to one person, don’t. Allocating them separately increases the likelihood that the jobs will be done well. It also means that meetings aren’t overly burdensome for one person.

Similarly, ensure the action points are as evenly spread as possible. Asking one person to deliver on all of the action points could be problematic.

Finally, consider including one last role that we’ll go into detail about below.

7. Commit to Productivity

Having people mindful of and committing to meeting productivity will improve it. 

One way of doing this is by having someone observe and report back on the meeting.

The observer must be objective. They will look at how well people stick to the meeting rules. They will look at how well people keep to time limits. Importantly, they can watch to see what impact these things may have on the productivity of the meeting.

Additionally, the observer can keep a watch out for anything that happens during the meeting that increases productivity. If someone suggests a subgroup further explores a particular topic. If someone offers to email information rather than running through it in the meeting. If someone suggests putting a contentious issue to a vote. These sorts of things can be noted. 

While meeting blocks can also be noted, it may not be helpful to dwell on them. If the information hasn’t been made available to everyone. If no one has a timer. If the meeting starts late. These will have a negative effect but so might focussing on them.

Importantly, the observer will report back on their observations at the end of the meeting. They can help positively reinforce the productive behavior they observed. 

Include this opportunity for feedback as a part of the agenda. It will keep participants mindful of the importance of productivity and support a positive wave of improvement.

Start your Next Meeting with GroupMap

Don’t worry, these aren’t secrets you need to keep. They will help improve just about any type of meeting you can think of. Feel free to share them with anyone you want to help.

GroupMap was designed to help people think better together. Our online meeting templates are a great tool that supports your meeting process so you can focus on the people in the room.

Check out our plans today!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

How Online Brainstorming Templates, Tools and Techniques Can Improve Your 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


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?


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


Patient Advocacy Group Looks Towards Online Brainstorming

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 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 [GroupMap] 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 [Groupmap] 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

“[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. 

Creating workshops with a difference – Youth Leaders in Aged Care

How do you get young people to be more involved in aged care boards? Injecting fresh innovative ideas into boards requires a new approach. Rather than a traditional workshop, with sticky notes that don’t stick, the organizers ran an “unconference” where people across generations could share ideas in real-time using an online brainstorming tool. Combining an audience response system with guest speakers from leadership bodies helped to engage the crowd and capture more ideas quickly and come up with strategies for action.

Dr Nicky Howe of Southcare Inc.

Alicia Curtis, Facilitator

Teaming up with Southcare Inc and facilitator Alicia Curtis, GroupMap joined in the action with over 30 brilliant minds to create innovative aged care organisations.

“How can we redesign our services and become more socially innovative?”

Southcare Unconference

Here’s their top 3, which they were happy to share. How would you rate?

1. Be okay with failing – Don’t blame failure, celebrate it. Define the appetite for the risk, then take a bite!

2. Create a culture of open communication – have respectful debates and look outside your own community for ideas.

3. Challenge the values of the boardroom– give people permission to think with innovation and challenge the “common sense” approach in the boardroom.

Engaging youth was the next challenge, but with over 46 ideas generated, there were certainly a few standouts. Popular actions included advertising in youth areas and universities, reaching out to grandchildren and specialised training programs. Specific governance strategies included changing constitutions to re-define board profiles to hosting youth-driven think tanks. Ideas that really broke from the norm included reaching out to detention centres, immigrant families and having permanent rotating positions.
So how did they come up with these ideas?
People sat in cross-generation teams and were addressed by industry leaders who shared their views and insights, creating a little communication fodder. Some believed it was about creating innovation champions within organisations and individuals change agents (Sue Van Leeuwan, CEO-Leadership WA) whilst others believed it required the whole Board to have the right mix and culture. Patrick Critchton, Justine Colyer – Chair.CEO – Rise Network). What seemed less divided was the need for training the next generation through structured pathways (Julian Keys- Chairperson, Swancare) and creativity and diversity on boards to ensure you aren’t just recycling the same old concepts.(Andrew York, CEO – People who care) The group was given tasks like writing a business case for their board and to brainstorm takeaway actions to increase engagement of youth in aged care. Seeing a room full of passionate people taking a collaborative approach to problem-solving was great. Coupled with an electronic meeting tool that brings everyone’s ideas together in real-time was an effective way to solve common problems across the sector.
From our perspective, it was great to see the inter-generational sharing and diversity of the team come together to meet help solve the issues associated with the Aged Care sector. Having a mixed team of ages, genders and industry backgrounds doesn’t come without its challenges. Sufficient time is needed to allow each participant to share their story and to justify why their idea should “stay on the page.”

All the best for your next collaborative workshop. We hope these tips and story helps you create better engagement too! Here are some testimonials from the facilitator and some of the participants during the workshop.