Remote Ideation Synchronous or Asynchronous

We often recommend generating ideas as a group in person, but for many teens that just isn’t always possible. Remote ideation can be challenging, but is definitely possible to effectively collaborate even if you’re in a geographically distributed team.

In fact, remote ideation opens up several options for generating group ideas, making it a useful tool even when you could actually meet in the same physical space. When you’re planning to conduct remote ideation, the first thing you have to decide is whether you want to ideate synchronously or asynchronously.

Synchronous ideation would be most similar to conducting an in-person workshop in synchronous ideation sessions. Team members contribute ideas together in a prearranged, fixed period of time. For example, everyone might hop on to a video meeting or a screen sharing platform for an hour to conduct the session.

Asynchronous ideation, on the other hand, allows people to contribute ideas to a shared document or a message thread over a longer period of time. For example, you could use a dedicated slack channel or a Google doc where people could add their ideas whenever something came to mind.

Each of these methods have both upsides and downsides. Synchronous ideation allows for team building and can get results in a short amount of time because it’s more intense and focused. But you need to find and set aside that time on everyone’s calendar and you might have to deal with more group dynamics issues like uneven communication from the various team members. In addition, it can be hard to find the right tool to allow everyone’s remotely participate, especially if you want to be able to share sketches with asynchronous ideation.

Team members can contribute whenever their schedule allows, so that gives people the time and the space to let things sort of marinate and maybe they end up with a greater number of ideas. However, this can also lead some people to overthink and second guess ideas before contributing them. Also, people can easily lose interest and forget to revisit that shared document to continue contributing ideas. Lastly, asynchronous ideation takes more time, not only in terms of allowing people to contribute over the course of a few days, but also because people must spend time getting back up to speed each time they revisit that document.

Neither method is necessarily better than the other and each have their place in your ideation practice. Synchronous sessions might work best when you need to generate and choose an idea quickly to be able to move forward in the design process or when the situation is complex and requires more back and forth discussion and the ability to talk through potential solutions together.

Asynchronous ideation is great when there isn’t a fast approaching deadline. So you have the luxury of a longer timeline to contribute ideas. Gathering ideas asynchronously can also be a lifesaver when everyone’s schedule is packed. Or maybe everyone is in conflicting time zones. So finding a specific common time to meet is nearly impossible.

And of course, it doesn’t have to be an either or situation. You could conduct a synchronous ideation kickoff meeting to talk through the issue at hand and perhaps capture some of the team’s initial ideas, then open up a shared document or thread for people to continue asynchronously, contributing their ideas for a designated period of time after that meeting. Or you could gather the ideas asynchronously for a few days leading up to a shared synchronous ideation session, try out a few different formats and tools for remote ideation to find out what works best for your team.

You’ll likely find that each ideation session calls for a different solution.

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