I heard a lecture a few days ago about using Second Life for brainstorming (aka “Ideation”). It was a fascinating presentation by Deigo Uribe Larach who’s done some consulting work with IBM, and others. He made some great points about how the richness of the new media appeals to young people who grew up playing 3D HD games. Okay, it is dazzling, I’ll buy into the program, it will be great for people who like all the bells and whistles, and…
Web based systems for virtual ideation have been around for a long time and adoption has been slow. Even the old bulletin boards on CompuServe were used at one point, and that goes back to the early 90′s. Better products, like WebIQ.net came out around 2000 and were coherent products, easy to use, and were rich with convergent tools (like voting, rank orders, etc.). Still later came the even better Idea Management Systems like Brightidea.com and Imagintik.
The problem is not the systems — you could do a brainstorm on email if you had to — the problem is mindset. For some reason(s) which I’ll explore briefly, these products have not been readily adopted. This, even though they are Way Cheaper, Easier, and possibly more effective than flying a dozen people to HQ, renting hotel meeting rooms (or other spaces), and generating ideas using flip charts and Post-It notes. There are other benefits too, I could write a whole blog about that alone.
The value of virtual brainstorming is so clear cut and easy to determine it’s a bit insane everybody isn’t doing it. In these troubled times why wouldn’t anyone choose an option that is just as effective and roughly 1/5 the cost or better? It’s a huge leap in effectiveness!
Why poor adoption? What’s the Mindset that won’t work? Here’s my short list:
1.) Generational issues with use of computers
2.) The belief that brainstorming “flow” only happens “live” and real time
3.) Live meetings are often dual purpose, brainstorming AND team building or strategy or planning or partying
4.) Lack of motivation, energy around generating ideas for anything
Addressing the objections above: First, if you have employees under the age of 40 you won’t have a technical issue with usage, they can do it — full stop. Second, brainstorming can happen, does happen, when individuals jam on ideas working alone. Arguably it’s actually more effective than traditional brainstorming because it allows for incubation and on-the-spot recording (studies show equality at least). Third, live meetings are great, but not the only answer for ideation. Why not do both and get the benefits of both (if you can afford it). Fourth, if your employees or colleagues lack motivation to use an online ideation system they won’t be so great ‘live’ either. Idea people are idea people all the time, tools schmoolz.
Anecdotal evidence: I just conducted a 3 week session using Bright Idea.com. With only 18 participants we generated over 400 ideas, and this was done without any travel expenses, facility rentals, transcribing, or time off regular work. The quality of the ideas is excellent. These are not seed ideas but well written concepts. In this particular case the cost was 1/10 of what it would have taken to organize a full day off site ideation. I rest my case.
If your organization needs help organizing it’s first virtual ideation, please let me help! You won’t regret it.