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A look at the distance brainstorm

by maria

The creators of Ludo, a creativity toolkit for game developers, look at the problem of keeping creativity alive and offer their top tips for keeping distributed brainstorms creative.

Over the last 18 months, we have all had to find our way through the pandemic, both personally and professionally.  The industry – the games industry – has been no different, with teams learning to work remotely to deliver their next blockbuster title.  And while it might be relatively straightforward to code remotely, one of the most important skills within any studio is its creativity, and keeping it alive.

In business, that is no different as creativity comes in many forms.  Whether you are trying to think about how to expand your business, revise a process, or come up with ideas for a new business pitch, ultimately it all comes down to inspiring those involved and making it as easy as possible for them to work together.

We’ve all been in a painful brainstorm, but there are some things that I have learnt over the years that make a big difference.  These have proved to be even more pertinent in the working environment we all find ourselves in now.  Yes, people are slowly starting to return to the office, but the reality is that few are working there full time yet and so the virtual brainstorm has become more common.  You may be used to this setting if you have an international team, but here are my top tips for getting the most out of a virtual brainstorm:

Step 1: Create the best environment

When you start brainstorming you need to first make sure you are situated in the right environment in order to generate the best possible outcomes. Picture this: You are stuck for an idea, in a small dark room with no direction and no way of moving forward with a concept. How can you help move that process along? It’s hard, right?

Picking an environment to brainstorm could be the difference between coming up with something amazing, or just going around in circles

Being able to generate an innovative fresh idea can be blocked by something as simple as your own four walls. If you are in the wrong environment, how can you develop and create an inspirational idea full of light, joy, and excitement? So before you even begin, make sure that you are in a place where you can think freely, feel enlightened, and have all the resources you need right to hand. In today’s remote working environment you may want to go somewhere new, rather than sticking to the usual place where you hold your Zoom, Teams or Skype calls or maybe even brighten up your background with something fun and different. The main question is have you set the scene correctly?

Step 2: Choose the right time for everyone

The time that you choose to have brainstorming sessions is very important; the energy that your team has at that moment in time is crucial to a successful session.

Friday afternoon is a prime example of when you shouldn’t set a brainstorming session, all team members involved could be more excited by what they are planning for the weekend or for that evening, and certainly be weary from a long day or week.

The time you pick is crucial – you want your team to be well-nourished, well-hydrated, and totally up for the task. Consider time zones as well if you are working with teams across different geos.

Step 3: Assign roles in the team

When it comes to being comfortable, everyone needs to know what their role is in the exercise: Within a brainstorming session, it is a good idea to plan out and set roles. This brings many benefits: you can balance personalities, for example, there may be a risk of your more extroverted team members dominating the group and preventing others from contributing and speaking up. If everyone has a role within the group they are more motivated and enthusiastic about putting their findings and opinions forward in a safe and comfortable environment. Therefore, when you brief people, tell them who will be writing down the ideas and who will be leading on which topics. This is especially useful if you need them to do some research in advance.

Step 4: Plan your reward

Injecting a bit of competition into the task can make the session fun and engaging. A lot of people resent brainstorms because they see their ideas taken and no recognition given. Think of a simple prize or reward for the best idea and make it democratic – call a vote at the end of the session. It doesn’t have to be expensive – it can be as basic as a star chart or something as literal as a gift voucher!

Step 5: Communicate the brief and the rules

The brief is super important. As long as people know the point of the brainstorm, what they need to prepare in advance and what the reward will be, they will arrive motivated and keen to contribute.

You will have heard the saying no idea is a bad idea – well we all know that’s a bit of a misconception – but the intention behind the saying is not: Some very odd, and off the wall ideas have been known to fly – so maybe let everyone know that even if they think an idea is terrible, suggest it anyway, it might be discounted but the more ideas that end up on the table, the better.

When you call a brainstorm make sure everyone knows their roles and the rules of the road. Be very clear with what you expect and what the goals of the brainstorm are. If you are working with remote teams suggest to them that they look at their environments and ensure they are ready and comfortable.

Step 6: Inspiration

Finding and getting a stimulus can be very difficult, but once you do, it is a goldmine of inspiration. That kind of inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere. That may be from your team, your surroundings or using online tools to help.  There are some fantastic tools around that can trawl the internet on your given topic and use a combination of Artificial Intelligence and keywords or other criteria that you provide, to generate ideas and suggestions that meet your criteria.  These are particularly useful when you are looking for creative or artistic inspiration, and can help understand what else is happening in your market, in a way that could take many hours for staff to research.

A win starts with the basics

There have been tens of thousands of pages written on the art and science of brainstorming, but in my experience getting the basic ingredients right can go a long way to making a team feel productive and leads to success.  Remember too, that a brainstorm is a team exercise and if the team feels it has lost the game, then the damage can be greater than that loss for their inspiration and motivation.

Ludo is a platform that is a creativity toolkit for game developers looking to develop exciting new game concepts. With tons of features including an automated game design document, a database of over 1 million games and 4 million images, Ludo allows developers to choose the best ideas and elements that Ludo proposes and then repeat the process to ‘zero-in’ on more ideas with those features. Slack integration on Ludo allows teams to collaborate as they create, and the new data centre means developers on the platform can see what keywords and themes are trending on at any time. These features make it an ideal creative partner for anyone looking to create that next great game concept. Find out more about this exciting new platform here.

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