The eye thinks along: This is how visual collaboration works

Brainwriting, design thinking, prototyping: modern approaches to brainstorming work visually. With visual collaboration tools, remote teams in particular benefit from efficiently structured meetings.

Albert Einstein often said that words are not enough to describe the images in his head. Thomas Edison once explained his thought process as follows: “I now have numerous machines in my head, which I continue to illustrate day by day.” The two famous inventors are not alone in this: According to the mathematicians Michael and Elena Deza, it is estimated that up to 65 percent of the population are visual thinkers. That is, they process words as a series of images and learn through visual means.

As a visual thinker, communicating your ideas to others can be difficult. This is why people use visual thinking aids such as drawings, sketches or flowcharts. However, since our workplaces are becoming more and more scattered, verbal communication often outweighs visual communication. In order to ensure that we communicate effectively, it is important to understand the role that visual, digital tools play when working with modern methods.

Brainstorming 2.0

Brainstorming is a great way to come up with new ideas or solutions to a problem together. One challenge, however, can be giving more introverted team members a chance to speak when louder voices are taking their place. In addition, a lot is often said in such sessions, which does not lead to productive ideas at all. The solution to these problems lies in brainwriting. It works like this: To ensure that no good ideas remain hidden, everyone first writes down their ideas. After a set time, about five minutes, your own ideas are passed on to another participant. In this way, ideas can be further developed from a different perspective. The team then repeats the process a number of times.

Brainwriting is designed to reduce chatter and allow everyone to add ideas at the same time. This speeds up the process, reduces social anxiety and counteracts ridicule. Individuals are not given the opportunity to dominate the discussion and prevent others from contributing their own ideas. Another advantage of writing it down: At the end of the meeting, everyone has the result right in front of their eyes. With a structured template in a visual collaboration tool, the development process or thought process behind the ideas is directly comprehensible. The ability to add sketches or images can further clarify what has been worked out.

This is what a brainwriting template could look like. (Source: Conceptboard)

Always keeping an eye on the customers

Design thinking encourages teams to turn problems on their head and find new ways to solve them with a design approach. This means that they focus on the users, i.e. the people behind the problem, in every phase of brainstorming. For this purpose, the first thing to think about is who the ideal customer is. What are the needs and pain points? Or the current customer journey? You can then define a customer-centric problem in order to find a customer-centric solution.

Methods such as prototyping, customer empathy mapping or the 5-why method are popular approaches for design thinking processes. They all work best with a visual structure template that team members can add input to. Digital solutions for visual collaboration not only offer versatile design options, but also endless space, which makes them the ideal working environment to pursue such approaches.

A customer empathy map is a good first step in the design thinking process. (Source: Conceptboard)

With prototypes in mind

The concept of prototyping, which originated in design, has been around for a long time. With the spread of design thinking, it has now gained popularity as a visualization tool in many industries. This typically involves working with low-fidelity prototypes: simple representations that help validate concepts at an early stage before investing too much time. For example, this could be the layout of a new website, a new version of an employee survey, or a mood board for a new design direction.

Not only the creation and presentation of prototypes is done with visual design elements. In digital visual collaboration tools, other team members and customers have the opportunity to add comments and their own additions and changes directly to the prototype. The feedback is also visual and can therefore be designed and understood on the same level. This makes correction loops easier on many projects.

Conclusion

Digital visual collaboration tools can fill the void left by whiteboards, flipcharts and post-its in deserted conference rooms. Big ideas and complex plans need more space than they can offer anyway. With digital, visual tools, teams have the opportunity to work with the most efficient methods – remote, synchronous or asynchronous. They make it easy for all team members to contribute ideas and can make online meetings more interactive, lively and productive. It is therefore impossible to imagine creative processes without them.