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Oct 20, 2021

Virtual Brainstorming for an Innovation Advantage for Hybrid and Remote Teams in the Future of Work (Video & Podcast)

tags: leadership,decision making,wise decision making,leadership development,cognitive biases,decision-making process,leaders,virtual brainstorming,creating competitive advantage

Virtual Brainstorming for an Innovation Advantage for Hybrid and Remote Teams in the Future of Work (Video & Podcast)

To seize a competitive advantage, you need to adopt virtual brainstorming for hybrid and remote teams. That's the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which shares best practices for virtual brainstorming for innovation advantage.

Video: “Virtual Brainstorming for an Innovation Advantage for Hybrid and Remote Teams in the Future of Work”

Podcast: “Virtual Brainstorming for an Innovation Advantage for Hybrid and Remote Teams in the Future of Work”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast



Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. And today, we'll help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions about virtual brainstorming. Virtual brainstorming really provides a great innovation advantage to hybrid and fully remote teams. You might not think of fully remote teams or hybrid teams as gaining innovation advantage over fully in office teams. But they do use effective brainstorming techniques. Unfortunately, lots of leaders want to return to the office full time, because of these fears of losing the innovation edge. They tell me and I've consulted for 16 companies on strategically adapting the techniques of getting back to the office and the full future of the work spectrum. So even after the pandemic, figuring out how to do all that. And they tell me that they really want to get back to the office, including full time. So they really want that full time back in the office, especially because of this innovation advantage. They feel that they're losing that innovation, when they are working full time at home virtually during the 18 months, so far from the pandemic. And they also don't want hybrid work, they're afraid that the more remote work there is, the less innovation there is. So they see that office based culture that Monday through Friday, nine to five office based culture or even mostly high or even hybrid work, that's three or four or five days a week, they see that as really necessary for innovation. And they reject hybrid work or virtual work. And they even push back against that, you know, the hybrid work idea, plenty of them, because of these fears. I mean, it's understandable when they experienced the lock downs of March 2020. They imposed their in office culture ways of doing innovation, which is brainstorming. That's the main way of doing innovation in offices for Team activities. So as a team collaborative activity, doing brainstorming together, that's the main way of pursuing deliberate innovation targeted innovation where you have a topic and you want to innovate about it into brainstorming. So they tried to brainstorm using video conferencing. Unfortunately, that's not a good recipe for success. And we have a lot of research showing that that does not work very well. And they fail to investigate better methods. And there were plenty of better methods available before the pandemic, even for doing effective virtual innovation. So that's a big problem. And that's what happened when leaders tried to impose their in office methodology on practicing innovation on the virtual environment, it didn't work, and now they're pushing for full time back in the office. That's a bad idea. And then where's that coming from? Well, it's coming from our dangerous judgment errors called cognitive biases. been checking out with the wise decision maker show for a while you know about these cognitive biases. These are the dangerous judgment errors that come from how our mind is wired. We make bad decisions in all areas of life, including professional life, personal life and innovation that come from these cognitive biases, the way that our minds are wired. Now, our minds aren't really wired for the modern environment. They're wired for the savanna environment, when we lived in small tribes of 50 people, 250 people, we had to survive and respond based on the fight or flight response. So of course, we have that desire to be tribal, to be with each other, and to be creative, when we are with each other. That's for those brainstorming sessions. That's what feels good. That's what feels right. Unfortunately, that's not a good fit. For the modern world. There are many, many ways where we are not very true tribally oriented, we are in part of multipolar global complex organizations that are teams of very different people in them. And it's not a good idea to use those same impulses, the same things. It's worked in the tribal environment, to try to impose them on the mother environment. But I'm not seeing people brainstorm that much of a tribal environment. It's those intuitions, it's what feels right. It's mistaking what feels right for what is actually right. And so it's really ironic that leaders try to impose the same ways that worked for them before in the office of innovating. They try to use traditional innovation practices in these new contexts. kind of ironic, but that's what happens. And that comes from a cognitive bias called functional fixedness. Functional fixedness. When we develop a toolset, a way of approaching problems of solving problems, whether it's around innovation or anything else, we tend to apply that toolset to all other kinds of situations where we need to innovate or do something else. You might have heard about the hammer nails Central, you know, when you have a Hammer, everything looks like a nail. That's a big problem because he doesn't adapt and sees other tools that are necessary for a situation. Yeah, a hammer is not very good when what you need is a wrench. And leaders have been trying to use hammers for the off traditional brainstorming, imposing them on a situation where you need to use a wrench to screw in the bolt, which is the virtual video conference setting. That is not a good idea. So that is a big problem that's functional fixedness. I related cognitive bias called the not invented here syndrome. People, leaders really liked these practices that they came up with or that they feel comfortable with they they grew up with, they were taught to them. And the specially innovative practices are hard for them to accept. It's kind of Oh, this idea wasn't invented here. It's some kind of novelty, we don't want it. So we prefer practices that we develop or adapt or integrate ourselves. And that is something that we tend to reject novel practices that were created elsewhere, even if they might work a lot better than what we have right now. Now, the best practices, so those are cognitive biases you want to avoid, the best practice for returning to the office is a hybrid first model, where you have a minority of people fully remote, and then a large majority of people 70 to 90%, spending one to two days in the office in the hybrid schedule. So 10 to 30%, fully remote 70 to 90%, one to two days in the office. And of the 16 companies that I worked with 15 adopted this model, one adopted the home centric model, where they had the people working as a default from home. And then just whenever there's a need to collaborate, discuss strategy, things that they need to do in office, they may decide to come into the office, but there's no expectation that you come into the office at all, unless there's a specific need to meet with someone, and you feel the meeting will be better done in the office. And there's a lot of benefits to this model. And you have retention of top talent, because, you know, if you're seeing a lot of people leaving offices, where that world leaders are forcing people to come back to the office, like Google, Uber, Amazon, we're all trying to force their employees to come back to the office, trying to force them trying to force them trying to force them, they saw top employees leaving, they had seriously lowered retention. And they had a lot of problems in this area and bad morale. And so they eventually had to change their policies and say, No, we screwed up, we're not going to force our employees. But back to the office full time, this was a mistake. And that happened. And each of them lost billions of dollars in top talent, leaving, of course, in morale, disengagement, and having to change their plans. And these are top companies, you know, some of this is happening at all levels of middle market companies, smaller companies elsewhere. So retention of top talent, you know, it's pretty hard to innovate when your top innovative talent has left or is demoralized and disengaged. Another benefit is a flexible company culture. So having that flexibility is very conducive to employee morale and engagement and also management of risks when you have new variants coming around, you can always go comfortably full time back home, when there is a variant that's pretty serious. It's spreading in your area. Now. So that's the high you want to get back to work. Now traditional brainstorming. Let's talk a little bit about this practice. There's definitely benefits to traditional brainstorming called things like social facilitation, where other people brainstorming, sharing ideas around you may inspire you to have some more. Other benefits include this, the idea of synergy was having hearing other people's ideas, so separately from the people themselves that social facilitation is other people doing things around you that's motivating. This synergy refers to learning about other people's ideas for what they're sharing may spark you to have certain ideas of your own. So it's quite useful, but it needs to be updated because Recent research has shown there's a lot of problems with it. Some people, depending on their cognitive types and styles, struggle with these problems, especially people who tend to be introverted and pretend to be pessimistic, so they struggle with traditional brainstorming. And these problems are seriously exacerbated by remote settings, which is why traditional brainstorming is especially bad in remote settings. Now one of the problems of traditional brainstorming I'll talk about three plot problems. One is called social loafing, social often so we have social facilitation where other people's presence in Korea just allows us to brainstorm better, to do more things, because we know that they're working as part of a team together. But we also have a tendency called social loafing, where the more people are around us, the less likely we are to work hard. So the more people that are in a brainstorming session, the less likely any specific person is to do the hard work. And so you get fewer and fewer ideas per person, the larger the size of the group. So the perfect size of the group for brainstorming is actually two people, two people, you get that social facilitation going, because you have somebody else working with you on these ideas, and you don't have the social loafing. So you know, and everyone is accountable, but you only have one, that person was producing ideas. So this is the most effective size of a group for the maximum ideas per person. Another problem we have is production blocking, so your ideas are drowned out by other people. That's what happens when other people are talking, you have an idea, other people are talking about a different idea. And then the conversation steers that way. And it's hard for you to even remember your own idea and eventually get lost. That happens so often in brainstorming meetings, and that drowns out good ideas. And it's especially problematic for introverts, introverts feel especially uncomfortable interrupting others. And there is also another aspect of drawing out where introverts are much better at coming up with ideas when they're in a quiet space. So thinking quietly, they're not very good at coming up with ideas, not nearly as good at coming up with ideas in a more loud buzzing space. So that's not great for introverts. Now, another problem is called evaluation apprehension. Now, that's kind of what it sounds like, where people are afraid of being evaluated by others coming up with crazy off the wall ideas, novel ideas, or for criticizing other people's ideas, whether implicitly or explicitly. So there's that word. These negative judgments are especially problematic for dealing with pessimists, people who have a more negative view of the world who have a view of the world is more full of threats and full of opportunities. pessimists actually tend to not like sharing ideas until they thought them through the optimists. And I'm definitely an optimist myself. If you can't tell, I tend to generate ideas on the fly. They're verbally practicing, so they share a lot of half baked ideas. pessimists, on the other hand, really want to take the time to think through an idea before sharing it, especially if they know that others will be seeing this idea. So this is a big challenge now to address pessimism and optimism to address these aspects of neurodiversity and introversion extroversion. So a lot of you used other methods before the pandemic lockdowns, best practices that research has shown that are really effective for brainstorming for generating the most ideas per person. And you can use these same methods for virtual settings that have been used by companies that have adapted strategically, instead of imposing the traditional methodology on in office settings. So let's talk about best practices. A synchronous virtual brainstorming is the best practice that I want to share about. This is a really, really useful tool that has seven steps. So seven steps, step one. So again, seven steps. Step one is idea generation. You want to have everyone anonymously input ideas into a digital collaboration tool that produces a spreadsheet. I use Google Forms pretty frequently. That's a nice tool. It guarantees anonymity, everyone knows it's anonymous. And what you can do is just have a Google form where everyone's typing in their ideas. And to have social facilitation and get you to do this independently, separately. You don't want to do this, where people are in the office in the room together separately from each other, but you want to for social facilitation, not everyone is working on this together. So you can have an agreed upon time. That's as you know, during this hour, everyone will be sharing ideas, and everyone will be inputting them and they of course can think about them beforehand, but they will not be inputting them until a certain period of time. So like that certain hour, say, No, everyone was working together and inputting these ideas. So that's the first step. And that and then it again, is very valuable to remove that evaluation apprehension, especially for people who tend to be pessimistic, they will not be as afraid as worried as anxious about sharing half baked ideas. Second step is idea cleanup. So the facilitator, so it is recommended groups have a facilitator to do this, because you don't want to be both a group member and a facilitator. Or you can do it with group members themselves. If there's a difficulty finding a facilitator, you remove duplicates, and categorize ideas. So that's idea cleanup, that's step two, step three, you want that initial ID evaluation. So evaluate these ideas. So you want to comment on each of these ideas anonymously. Again, you can use Google Sheets to get that Google spreadsheet, spit it out, you clean it up, and then each team member goes through and comments on each idea. So just using the comment feature And again, you can do it anonymously, just create a throwaway email. So comment on each idea anonymously. And you also rate on a scale of zero to five, the novelty and practicality of each idea. And novelty, obviously, you know how novel this practicality means how easy and pragmatic it would be to implement, difficult, easy, so on, then you have revised idea generation now you've seen everyone's ideas. And that's great, and you've had a chance to go through them and share your own thoughts on the comment on them and evaluate them, then you want to revise the idea. So have a revised idea generation process. So you're adding to your initial ideas, and also inspired by other people's ideas and their comments and your ideas, you have a revised idea. So new ideas, so generate new ideas. Again, it's like step one input anonymously into a spreadsheet. Then clean this up Step five, that's revise the geo cleanup, same thing. And then step six is revise the geo evaluation, again, commenting and rating and novelty and practicality. And finally, step seven, is having a meeting. That's a synchronous meeting, in which virtual teams chat virtually. For hybrid teams, I recommend you have that in person. But again, avoid doing the other steps in the office, this is the one step where for hybrid teams, you can do it in the office. Otherwise, you'll have production, blocking and evaluation of prehension as serious issues. So you don't want to go into that. Now, why is this better than traditional brainstorming? Why do I say that? Why did some people use it even before the pandemic, because it very clearly shows that it generates more novel ideas, both more ideas, and more novel ideas. So compared to the same time group doing that traditional brainstorming, asynchronous virtual brainstorming generates more ideas, to get it together total of ideas and more ideas that are rated as more novel. And it avoids that production blocking problem and avoids evaluation apprehension. So that's great. It's anonymous. So no variation apprehension, avoids the production blocking because you don't have that issue of people speaking over of people speaking over each other, being worried about interruption or having difficulty focusing in that environment. Everyone can go into an environment they like, you know, introverts can go into a co working space where other people are working if they want the sound of other people working and chatting around them or in a cafe, right? It's especially beneficial for larger groups. So the larger the group is, the more beneficial it is to us because you don't have that social loafing, since you can have software just track how many people people submitting each idea so you can track the number of ideas per person so each person stays accountable. Now, some other benefits of choosing a synchronous virtual brain brainstorming is that neurodiversity you can engage very diverse team members and facilitate their idea creation so balances those preferences for introverts and extroverts. And for optimists and pessimists. So that's why I strongly recommend that you use a synchronous virtual brainstorming to seize an innovation Vantage for virtual and hybrid teams. Alright everyone, I hope you enjoyed this episode of the wise decision maker show. And please follow us on the YouTube if you check this out video or on Apple iTunes. If you check out the podcast or any other podcast delivery platform, leave your comment if you can leave a comment. And please Of course rate the show. We'd love to hear your ratings. And of course recommend us to your friends and family and share on social media. That's a great compliment you can give to a new podcast. I'd love to hear your feedback, please email me at Gleb at disaster avoidance again glove at disaster avoidance experts have come and check out all of our other resources at disaster avoidance blogs, podcasts, videocasts online courses, books, coaching, training and so much more. Alright everyone, I hope this episode helps you make wise and profitable decisions. Until next time. I look forward to seeing you on the next show.

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Originally Published at Disaster Avoidance Experts on October 12, 2021.

Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is a world-renowned thought leader in future-proofing, decision making, and cognitive bias risk management. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-proofing consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which specializes in helping forward-looking leaders avoid dangerous threats and missed opportunities. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, and other languages. He was featured in over 550 articles and 450 interviews in prominent venues. These include Fortune, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Time, Fast Company, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for mid-size and large organizations ranging from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, including 7 as a professor at Ohio State University. You can contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, LinkedIn, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, and gain free access to his “Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace” and his “Wise Decision Maker Course” with 8 video-based modules

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