Virtual Brainstorming, who knew?

What if you got the best contributions from your team - without leaving your offices?

I recently received an inquiry asking if I was available to graphically record, three several hours long, brainstorming sessions for three separate teams of ten people....catch is, the teams wouldn't all be in the same room. I'd never done anything like this before but thought to myself 'When I record I stand with my back to the group, why can't I record with my back to a screen?'. So I thought 'Sure, why not!', and said 'Yes!' to the client.

The purpose of the brainstorming session was to have a far ranging, loosely facilitated discussion to generate ideas. Classic brainstorming and a perfect use of graphic recording. My job, in addition to capturing the content, was to listen for connections, cluster similar ideas, and try to make some sense of what we knew would be a messy, all-over-the-place discussion. Which is exactly what  the three sessions turned out to be. It was fascinating to be in a small media room in an office in downtown San Francisco, three mornings in a row, with one team member there to make sure the camera was properly positioned and the recording equipment was turned on. The three teams' members were in five offices, on two continents, and the sound quality was perfect. It was as if they all were seated behind me. All three teams had been working together, always virtually, for awhile now so they knew one another's voices and were familiar with their specific topic. 

After each session ended I stood back, made connections, created buckets, added lines/arrows and colors. I provided high resolution jpegs of the recordings each afternoon and they were promptly sent to the team members. Everyone was given a home work assignment - 'Look closely at the graphic recordings, identify three things of interest to you, and send that information back in the morning.' To my clients' delight everyone on all three teams did their homework and promptly contributed their three areas of interest. This feedback was collated, displayed on top of photos of the recordings, and returned to the team members in a Power Point deck.

This idea, of recording a brainstorming session, was something this client had never tried. They were as pleased as I was with the results. One team member remarked at how comforting it was to see me, albeit small in the corner of their laptop's screen, moving across the paper putting ideas together and making connections. One fellow told me he'd seen my work before but didn't realize I worked live in real time, and now he had all kinds of ideas where graphic recording could be of value. I've always thought one of the glories of live graphic recording is that people know they are being heard. For these three teams, even though I was in most cases hundreds or thousands of miles away, they still could see me working and know they were being heard.