Meetings to brainstorm ideas for ways forward, innovation, or solving business problems typically take place in a conference room. Instead, a whole organization of people can harness the customs of Twitter to crack the silos and proximally limiting confines of brainstorming meetings. Everyone with an Internet connection (or a mobile handset using the twitter app or a browser) can participate.
Brainstorming in the old way required every one to be near one another, flip charts, smelly markers, and lots of java to get the creative juices flowing. The interactivity was good, and people often made substantial headway.
But the brainstorming was only as powerful as those in the room, and exponentially less robust by those left out of the room. In the new era, using telepresence, brainstorming could occur across boundaries using pricey technological equipment to people into the same room. This eliminated the need for expensive business class plane tickets to various office across the globe.
Still this restricted the interaction to only the small number of folks you are able to squeeze through the pipes into the same space to interact at the same time. Scheduling is a nightmare. And research shows that the more input there is on an idea, the better it is.
Twitter, using hashtags, and the @functions, can effectively open up brainstorming to anyone who is thinking about the issue at any given time. From wherever they are and whenever they like, they can make a new contribution to the flow of ideas.
By using hashtags, a person can drill into the conversation from the most recent post backward through time to the point of origin. Anyone can sift through the already displayed ideas and then try to elevate the conversation, in 140 characters or less. A link to a blog post can capture longer ideas.
In this fashion, every one in a company/organization, from the top to the very bottom, provided they have an enabled handset, can participate in the tweetstorm, and add value to the discourse. This could also allow customers or external stakeholders to participate.
Using the many tools available for Twitter (i.e. Monitter, TweetChat), a company could post a feed of the conversation on its intranet, website or blog to facilitate additional conversations with the appropriate audience.
If the conversation needs to be more private on the very public form of twitter, a tool like "!blether" is very useful in that it allows for twitterers to form a private group within the twitverse. Any contributor who has been invited by the initiator can join, leave and re-join whenever convenient. There are no additional registration requirements, the same twitter id for each individual can be used to access this free tool. For those who find it feasible, there is a professional version too.
In order to give it a whirl, we used twitter in a mini test to make improvements on this hack (see attachment). Here is a wordcloud representation of our ideas and contributions:
We (@windspike, @RobinDeacle, @anish3075, and @alfacarlo) really enjoyed the experience. Using twitter allows you to post your thoughts as soon as you come up with them, rather than wait for the next meeting/gathering (hoping you still remember it). In very real terms, you are able to park your idea and have the rest of the team think through it and possibly pile on.
In business, this approach would allow more people to participate. Allowing the brainstorming to happen over time means people can contribute the idea they had while they were out walking. Through smartphones, the idea wouldn't be lost before the participant got back to a computer. And for those who do not use a smartphone, the computer still can be an enabler in participating. Further, even those stakeholders who are interested in the tweetstorm remain 'in the loop'. After all, functionally, this matters as much as contributions in open discussions.
Tweetstorming could also save time. Instead of a two-hour meeting with food, beverage and other techniques to spur creativity, the ideas come at their own pace. You'd also save some money on office supplies - markers, flip-charts, sticky notes, etc.
You can try this right now with any organization you belong to - create a hashtag that is short enough to not take up too much of your valuable 140 characters, invite a number of people you work with to brainstorm around a particular challenge by @tweetingthem, and then it's game on. Be sure to set an end date, and the question you are trying to wrestle. See what happens.
Tweetstorming should increase participation in brainstorming. Tweetstorming should capture more ideas for the current problem and for the future. Tweetstorming ensures pithy communication - short, simple, managable and effective.
- Number of tweets
- Number of participants.
- Number of different ideas
- Added value to the organization, if you move forward on any of these ideas.
If there is no added value, perhaps this is a crazy idea. But just maybe, opening up your brainstorming in this way to your colleagues, your customers, and yes, even your competitors, you may find that the quality of your brainstorming is exponentially greater than the times you used to sit in a conference room bickering back and forth about the proper direction of your operation.
▪ Experimental subjects:
We tried this at first with our hacking team. Other places to try it would be with product development, strategic planning, any process that uses innovation to describe itself, or any issue that requires a focus group. This would work best in technology-focused companies or in departments that already use social media.
▪ Control group:
At this time, we don't have a control group. Perhaps we should measure results based in comparison with a hackathon team that is using more traditional brainstorming methods like skype or google + chats. You could also hold a traditional brainstorm and measure the number of ideas and participants versus the tweetstorm.
If you are to do this in your own organization, this is how the work may flow:
- Initial 2 or 3 Tweets - define the question, the common #tag, and invite about 3 or 4 people via twitter handle to include, encouraging them to invite folks they know to participate.
- Send an email or direct message via twitter to all people you know are are within the company and encourage them to participate.
- Set a deadline by which you hope to finish the tweetstorming - no more than 3 to 4 days (or longer/shorter if you like)
- Post a feed of the hashtag in an appropriate place - intranet or website, maybe a TV screen in the cafeteria. Remind people that it exists and invite them to participate.
- At the end, examine your twitter feed via sorting by hash #tag.
- Make a decision based on the input (perhaps in consultation at your next staff/team meeting)
- How did it go?
- Even if it didn't go well, try it again. First time's a charm, or not, and perhaps the topic wasn't interesting enough.
This hack has been proudly developed with the intersection of four innovative minds:
Aaron Anderson (@windspike) - Our lead writer!!
Robin Deacle (@RobinDeacle)
Anish Kumarswamy (@anish3075)
Alberto Blanco (@alfacarlo)
We also want to thank all our fellow hackers from the MIX Management 2.0 Hackathon. Without them, this hack wouldn’t have been conceived in the first place.