Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Brainstorming workshop for creating social media

When Brainstorming Rocks

Brainstorming is not good for everything, but when you need to get a lot of ideas out and quickly its perfect.  In October of 2013 I was with a youth group in Bhutan on retreat of 24 people from all over the world.  The program was with the Gross National Happiness Center and unlike other tourist we did not have to pay the $300 a day service charge.  Although we were in the outdoors, some of the leaders wanted to be generating social media, primarily a blog.  I was designated as the Social Media coordinator, this is the story of what I did and how I plan on using these tools for other organizations.

Social Media Culture and Awareness

From my experience with helping business with Social Media (I hope my capitalization scheme doesn't drive some bonkers) I've learned that the best way to get a lot of content is to open up and become a Social Organization (or for this purpose a Social Group.  So I took these steps:

  1. Let everyone in the group know that you'd like them to be thinking about Social Media and give them context, details about topics and what type of content you are already putting online (blog posts, pictures, etc).  Ask who would be interested in doing a Social Media Workshop. 
  2. Encourage creative writing excercises and taking more photos with Socia Media in mind
  3. Encourage everyone to work with one another i.e. pair someone who doodles or takes good photographs with someone who has the writing for a blog post
  4. Hold a series of workshops that focus on opening the participants up so the blogs can flow easily
  5. Follow-up with everyone to see where there social media is at
A couple of days after letting everyone know what we were doing we had the workshop.  We re-invited everyone and 5 out of the 24 of us were interested.  The goal was to have fun, loosen up, generate some ideas so it was a fairly easy sell.

Workshops should be fun and a sense of mindfulness and open-mindedness is called for.  Our meeting took place outside in a circle.  We started it off with some silence.  A good brainstorming session should do these 3 things:

  1. Give people the proper context
  2. Get tons of applicable ideas
  3. Have a Next Steps component
Proper context is important so that people know what is expected and what the whole thing is about.  Its important for these context setting sessions to explain things that may be unknown to some of your group so in our workshop we had to explain what Blogs were, why they were important and I thought it was very important to make the point that for this blog your existing writing, photos and video could be used and that good writing from your journal could easily be used in the blog.  The gist of this blog was about personal stories, but when doing this exercise for other organizations bringing your guiding documents about the blog would be a good starting point to give people the context for the blog.

To get ideas for Blogging we also needed to back up a step so I also made a special point to explain the difference in Topics (or tags, keywords whatever you call them) and in posts.  By coming up with Topics we would be able to easily come up with blog post ideas.  So for example if you come up with a blog topic like "funny pictures" then you immediately can think of tons of ideas that would sprout off of that.  So the paper mind-map was then explained as a way to capture the ideas we were going to be having.  The mind map had 3 nodes under it: Topics, Post Ideas and General Notes. 

After giving a couple of examples and writing them down on the Mind Map most everyone got it.  So when we start a free-for-all anyone say whats on their mind, people started to warm to the idea and someones idea over here would spark someone else.  Someone would suggest a topic (like someone really did suggest a Funny Pictures" topic) and then all of a sudden everyone had ideas about blog posts around that and after a couple of break-throughs ideas were flowing like water.  The mind map was starting to fill out quite nice.

Now that everyones minds were really working, they got the exercise and they had too many ideas to be shouting out we took it into some reflective time that everyone could take notes.  This exercise I refer to as Autonomous mind, a mentor of mine and the author of How the Paper Fish Learned to Swim, Jonathon Flaum (of Asheville) inspired me to be a better creative leader and taught me many techniques including what he called Autonomous mind.

Everyones ideas were pouring on to paper, and by the time we called everyone back together peoples minds were working.  We then went around (a technique I call around the world) the circle so that everyone could give us there best ideas.  It was also open for others who may have other ideas surrounding the ideas to speak up.  So many ideas about blog posts were being gathered after the circle came back to me ( I started) I thought it was important for everyone to highlight some of the ideas they thought were the best on the mind map.  Getting people up and looking at the board was fun and by pulling out some of the top ideas we then had a short list of good topics and blog posts.   I encouraged people to think about partnering with someone else who had a good topic, for everyone to consider doing group writing (maybe have a conversation and codify it into a blog post)

The last part was for everyone to say what they were going to do.  To commit to actions.  This was important because in a couple of days I needed to be able to check back and ask about how they were doing.  Everyone's minds were ready for writing and many continued on to write many blog posts and many collaborations happened.  Everyone was now aware of the blog and had an expanded understanding of what topics and blog posts so I heard many folks saying to me later that while walking through camp they had a blog post idea because we had give proper context and they had a web of topics and thus a lens to see good posts.

Of course these blog posts had to be carried in a thumb drive across a raging river (on a bucket) and over an hour away on one of the worst roads you've ever been on to a little coffee shop to be posted, but hey... we were "connected".  The world community got to see our posts and most folks that posted were also read and shared by a much higher percentage of our camp since they were aware.  I hope to write more about creating a Social Organization.  This was the Social Group version.  

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