Brainstorming was invented to make creative success easier–whether it’s for the next big app idea, for the next meeting agenda or for where to eat. But, it’s not always that simple for some people, which is why there are various techniques and strategies to encourage everyone to participate.

Whether it’s a team of 2 or 100 people, brainstorming or simple decision-making sessions take up about 30 minutes to an hour. And more often than not, it has become normal to go for default decisions or to become swayed by other people’s ideas instead of sticking for what we want or pitching something new to the table.

The same is true with us in Symph. While we can easily decide what program works for a certain web feature but it’s difficult for us to decide where to eat. Except for Dave, Lotlot and Albert, they know what NOT to eat, so it’s easier for them.

Over time, we’ve tried a lot of techniques to make collaboration more productive, engaging and efficient. Our team is our most important asset [even more important than internet] and we believe everyone has great ideas to contribute–as evidence, their ideas have made Symph what it is today. We also tried a lot of non-tech ways that we prefer not to discuss. Here’s the evolution of the decision-making techniques we’ve tried over time.

1. Manual Voting

“Raise your hands if you want to vote for X.”

Manual voting, the cult classic. While it makes us feel young (very similar to a classroom setting) and healthy (minor physical exercise involved), it makes everyone feel exposed, therefore hesitant to make their choices.

Verdict: It works, but not when you’re a team of more than 10. 

2. Facebook Polls

As much as possible, we’d like to keep a healthy work-life balance, and that means avoiding the intrusion of work when it comes to our personal spaces (e.g Facebook, Messenger and other social networks) And it’s not that we block these applications in our office. We tried Facebook polls, really, but with it we become so easily distracted that we forgot why we logged in in the first place, thus doubling the decision time.

Verdict: We like to keep Facebook the procrastinating social network tool as it is.

3. Slack Emojis

Ah, Slack. We love the communication tool Slack since it makes working with the team more fun and productive, read more about it here. However, it’s not a very efficient tool when it comes to decision-making. We tried it through trusty emojis. Exhibit A:

Verdict: We think Slack is a great internal communication tool, but when it comes to helping us create decisions it becomes a long thread of conversations and emojis instead.

4. Design Sprints

One of the most complex, but well-loved, is the Design Sprint. When it comes to our projects or core team meetings, we always find it handy to trust our sticky notes and stickers, most often integrating and hacking parts of the Design Sprint.

Verdict: While yes, we still love this process, we just can’t help but feel bad for all the post-it notes and stickers that not only are they expensive, disposing so many only contributes less and less to helping the environment, too.

5. Decision Jam

Decision Jam was inspired by the Lightning Decision Jam process that we also use quite often in Symph. And so, we built Decision Jam as a hack to Lighting Decision Jam–to help us initiate decision-making with the team quickly and efficiently. Decision Jam was also created with remote teams, introverts, and trees in mind. 

All we simply have to do is create a Decision Jam room, invite and tell everyone involved to pitch their ideas and then vote. All this with the team’s preferred devices in hand, be it a laptop or mobile phone.

It’s more collaborative in way that it encourages everyone to pitch in their ideas for a certain topic [aka Jams] since everyone is anonymous–from pitching to voting. Ever since we’ve used Decision Jam, our brainstorming sessions have been cut from a usual 1 hour to 15 minutes or lesser! 

Verdict: At the end of the day, it always felt good to know that we made decisions without leaving anyone’s ideas unheard, and that we get to act on something we all agreed on. Plus, we get to save more trees and time while we’re at it. It’s safe to say Decision Jam is here to stay.

Try Decision Jam today and let us know what you think!

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