4 minute read

Dogfooding diary: a participant’s tips on tech for brainstorming facilitators

Dave McKean
Posted by Dave McKean on Jul 17, 2018 5:47:00 AM
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Dogfooding (aka eating your own dog food). It’s what you call it when a company uses its own technology or products. At Nureva, we probably engage in dogfooding more than most companies. After all, our products – the Nureva™ Wall, Span™ Workspace and the HDL300 audio conferencing system – are made for collaboration, which is a big part of our culture, so we eat our own dog food a lot. And I find it pretty tasty.

Nureva team members in a brainstorm

(Dog) food for thought for facilitators

Yes, as a writer in the marketing department at Nureva, I get paid to say nice things about our products, but I can honestly say I like our brand of dog food. And a recent interdepartmental meeting got me thinking about how our tools would benefit facilitators or anyone else who runs brainstorming and ideation sessions. We have staff with formal expertise on this sort of thing, but I thought I’d offer a few insights and a little advice (if I may be so bold) from a participant’s perspective. Here we go:

Got a big group with lots to say? Span Workspace and Nureva Wall are your friends.

Our recent meeting involved 15 people from 2 departments. That’s a lot of voices. Our first collaboration task was simply to answer the question, “What do you think the job of sales is?” In mere minutes, almost 100 answers were submitted by team members (without any prodding) tapping their input onto the Span canvas from their personal devices. There were none of the hemming, hawing and awkward pauses you often see when a group is asked to vocalize their ideas.

And then, a little more magic: team members working at the wall and assisted by others on their devices quickly sorted the inputs into useful categories. Patterns, themes and categories quickly emerged. In just minutes our messy jumble of ideas had coherence. It suddenly was useful.

Nureva team members using Nureva Wall and Span Workspace

I scratch my head to think how this could have been achieved with this kind of speed and ease with traditional analog tactics. We might have run out of sticky notes (though we would have had far fewer ideas, so maybe not). We would have strained to read the sticky notes. Sorting would have been a real time hog. And, BTW, how do you “save” a sticky-note wall? Take a picture? Yuck. Trying to retrieve content from a sticky-note wall from a picture (zoom in, zoom out) is a real usability fail.

Introverts can be stars (away from the spotlight, of course) with Span Workspace

Introverts make up an estimated 25–50% of the population. That’s a lot of people who probably aren’t at their best in a conventional brainstorming session. But Span Workspace can help people who are reserved in large groups. First, because working at a canvas can give participants more reflection time before making suggestions to the group. This is vital to introverts who tend to like to ponder a little longer before talking. Second, because there’s no spotlight on you when you add to a canvas – you can be anonymous.

dogfooding-andrew-body

And beyond accommodating introverts, anonymity can be a powerful aid to surfacing more diverse ideas. Anyone can be self-conscious about offering an idea that’s a little “out there,” but with Span Workspace there’s no risk. So why not put up an iffy idea – it could be the breakthrough idea the group needs?

Span Workspace is your ally in the war against groupthink

Groupthink drives me crazy. It happens when brainstormers fixate on the earliest ideas given in a session (you’ve heard of the value of “speed to market” for innovative companies, “speed to sticky” confers many of the same benefits). An idea offered up by the CEO or other senior team member can also cause groupthink (you know what I’m talking about).

Span Workspace puts the smackdown on groupthink. You don’t chase the first idea on the canvas, rather, you let them accumulate before deciding which ones to pursue. And you don’t know whose idea is whose so contributions get judged on their merits. Speed and status don’t matter with Span Workspace.

Male and female Nureva team members collaborating with Nureva Wall and Span Workspace

Span Workspace solves a little-known participation impediment: handwriting humiliation

I, a grown man, have the penmanship of an 8-year-old boy (there, I said it). And I always imagine it diminishes the gravitas of any contribution I make to a whiteboard or wall of sticky notes to see it rendered in a childlike scrawl. With Span Workspace, I add my contributions with confidence. Whew.

Not there? Not a problem.

I almost forgot to mention the participants that weren’t in the room for our ideation session. Maybe that’s because it was almost like they were there. They participated – adding notes and seeing their teammates’ notes – with the same ease as the on-site team. And thanks to the HDL300 system, conversations were seamless. One microphone and speaker bar hanging on the wall provided pickup for the whole room (approximately 20' X 20' or 6 x 6 m), including people at the conference table, people working at the wall and those at the edges of the room. Again, how would that work with traditional tools?

Individual using Span Workspace on a mobile device

Good and good for you

More participation (without any cajoling) from more people (from introverts to the penmanship-challenged), an easy way to sort and make inputs meaningful, clear conversations with remote team members, plus a handy record of your efforts you can access anywhere. Those are some of the benefits of the dog food we enjoy here at Nureva. And like actual dog food that must taste good – so your pooch will actually eat it, our dog food is easy – so people actually use it. It’s why I think facilitators wanting to hold healthy brainstorm sessions will like our brand.

Topics: Collaboration Remote Work Span Workspace Nureva Wall