Post-pandemic, many companies exist in a hybrid workplace. Harvard Business Review (HBR) highlights that leaders are trying to gain innovation advantages in their work by adopting new and effective innovation methods, like virtual brainstorming.

This article explores the reasons why virtual brainstorming is better for the generation of new ideas over traditional brainstorming techniques.

Traditional brainstorming

Traditional brainstorming does have its advantages. HBR states that brainstorming together physically can:

  • Generate synergy – where team members can gain energy, and inspiration from others’ ideas.
  • Create social facilitation – a common goal can create group motivation.

However, despite traditional brainstorming being good for collaboration, HBR concludes that it is not as effective when it comes to innovation. Two limitations of the exercise are:

  • Production blocking – ideas can become lost in the group discussion as it changes direction, this is especially prominent for introverts who may not speak up to pitch their ideas. 
  • Evaluation apprehension – Employees who are afraid of receiving negative criticism from their colleagues tend not to offer ideas. This affects pessimists the most since they frequently worry that thoughts will be too “out of line”.

Due to these issues, sometimes traditional brainstorming doesn’t fit the criteria for an exercise conducive to innovation.

Virtual brainstorming  

On the other hand, virtual brainstorming can be applied in a variety of situations, including in-person, hybrid, and remote. Research presented by HBR shows that virtual brainstorming is better than traditional brainstorming for innovation:

  • Virtual brainstorming leads to more ideas generated than the traditional exercise.
  • In-person brainstorming generates fewer novel ideas per person, this is not true for virtual.
  • Done right, virtual brainstorming creates a balanced environment for introverts and extroverts, optimists and pessimists.

How to run a virtual brainstorming session

To facilitate a successful virtual brainstorming session it is important that leaders and teams conduct best practices.

Gleb Tsipursky the CEO of the boutique consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts outlined the process to take to a session in his HBR article:

  1. Pick a collaboration tool – Miro is a fantastic online collaborative whiteboard platform that enables distributed teams to work effectively together. 
  2. Appoint a facilitator for the session and create and share an agenda so team members can think about ideas before the session (this can be especially beneficial to introverts who like to think alone). Appoint a facilitator for the session.
  3. Idea generation – Log onto a video conferencing call and give everyone 10-15 minutes to write down their own ideas. Encourage the submission of contradicting ideas as this tension can facilitate innovation.
  4. Sorting – The chosen facilitator should remove duplicate ideas, and group related ideas together into categories.
  5. Evaluation – run an anonymous feedback session where employees can vote, comment or like ideas. Do this using a criterion that fits your overall goal/aim. 
  6. From this evaluation, the best ideas should filter to the top. Employees then compare ideas directly against goals and flesh out the ideas that are best fit. 
  7. Implementation – generate actions and allocate these to team members.


If best practices are followed, virtual brainstorming can be more innovative. In general, team members come up with more ideas, and a balanced workplace climate is created to the advantage of all workers.

Despite this, at Make Happy we recognise that some of the potential failures of traditional face-to-face brainstorming can be addressed through proper facilitation. Our trained facilitators are equipped with experience and tools that can help prevent production blocking and evaluation apprehension. This ensures the successful use of traditional brainstorming and a successful collaborative outcome.