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How to Run a Virtual Brainstorm that Actually Works

Fun fact about pandemic life: Zoom fatigue is real. And not just real, but “widely prevalent, intense, and completely new,” according to Psychiatric Times.

Although we might be avoiding Zoom these days when an email or even a phone call (is it 1986 again?) will suffice, there's one place where video conferencing still shines, and that's the good ol' brainstorm.

Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.

When I picture brainstorms of years past, I see images of big tables full of candy and fidget toys and pens and Post-Its galore. Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.

Today we’ll talk about some virtual brainstorming strategies I’ve seen work really well. And then hopefully, you’ll give one a try. 

Choose your occasion wisely

brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation.

Back when our biggest workplace woe was a vending machine out of Diet Coke, many of us took brainstorming sessions for granted. But in a virtual world, it's harder to organize, facilitate, and get people engaged.

That's why brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation. (Often what you’re looking for is just a meeting.) Brainstorms are a very specific brand of discussion in which a collective of creative voices, ideas, and opinions are necessary inputs to achieve a valuable output.

Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions. They're a fabulous enabler of ideas and solutions, so do use them. But do so strategically and with clear intention.

Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions.

What are some great occasions to host a brainstorming session? Use them when you need to:

  • Add or refine product features
  • Define a path in a sticky situation
  • Solve a complex problem

These and many other scenarios call for a variety of perspectives in which there are no right or wrong answers, but only ideas.

In contrast, many other occasions don’t call for a brainstorm. Like when you need…

  • Approval or alignment
  • Receipt of a message or direction
  • Feedback on a mostly baked idea

These are not brainstorm moments—they're meetings with a much more defined outcome. See the difference?

Figure out the specific problem you want to address

Okay, so you've figured out that your situation calls for a brainstorming session. Now, it's time to make sure everybody who comes to the brainstorm is on the same page before you begin by creating a statement that lays out the specific problem and how you need to tackle it.

Your problem statement might be something like:

We’re losing market share on X product, and we need to define new features to attract Millennial customers.

And here's another example:

This client wasn’t happy with our last deliverable and we need to redefine how we’re engaging with them.

One of your goals is to keep the session short (because fatigue) while maximizing what you take away from it. A clear problem statement allows you to invite your brainstorming participants to get the creative juices flowing ahead of the actual session.

Assign some prework to get things rolling

Now that you've stated the problem or opportunity, it's time to let participants know you’re looking forward to a collaborative discussion and invite them to jot down some early ideas and send them your way.

You can then do some analysis ahead of the session. Did you spot any common themes? Any particular ideas you’re interested in having the group build upon?

Share your findings at the beginning of the brainstorming session. This will give you a strong foundation from which to build.

Get creative with tech 

Love it or hate it, video conferencing technology is definitely your friend in a virtual brainstorm. It allows you to create a purposeful connection amongst participants. But you have to understand how to engage them.

When I used to run in-person meetings with leadership teams, I was always intentional about switching up the activities every 30 minutes or so. I’d facilitate a breakout, and then we’d do a quick poll, and then I’d have people plot Post-It notes around the room, and more.

Keeping things changing and moving is a great way to keep adults engaged. According to the Harvard Business Review: "If you don’t sustain a continual expectation of meaningful involvement, [people] will retreat into that alluring observer role."

So take the time to learn the features of whatever platform you’re using, and make the session engaging. Some tactics you might try?

  • Use polls to test out early ideas
  • Use small group breakout sessions to create mini-competitions between your participants
  • Use a whiteboard to replicate a poster board people can plot virtual Post-It notes on
  • Use voting to prioritize or stack rank

Of course, talking is part of any brainstorm. But using technology can keep participants from slipping into the shadows without contributing.

Establish norms that serve your purpose

A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.

A client once told me this story about a packaging company that was struggling with productivity. Their products had to be wrapped in newspaper before being shipped. But often, as employees were packaging product, they’d accidentally start reading the newspaper, losing precious packing minutes. These minutes added up to lost productivity.

One day the leadership team was brainstorming solutions to this distraction problem and one executive said, “Well, what if we just poked their eyes out?”

Of course, he wasn't serious—the question was absurd and meant to add a little humor. But it triggered a new line of thinking. Eventually, the company established a partnership with a non-profit organization that finds jobs for blind people.

Is this story true? I’m honestly not sure. But it’s a great illustration of the importance of free-flowing ideas.

A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.

As the facilitator, what norms can you put in place to ensure that all ideas get voiced without judgment and everyone has a chance to speak?

Here are a few you might consider:

  • Use the improv rule of “yes, and.” It means that ideas are never knocked down, only built upon. (Don’t worry, they can get voted down later, just not during the brainstorm)
     
  • Use the two- (or one- or five)-minute rule. Ask people to limit themselves to two minutes at a time, even if they need to stop mid-thought (they can finish on their next turn). This challenges people to be concise and ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak.
     
  • Use a round-robin technique. Circle around the Zoom participants, calling on each person as you go. If someone isn’t ready, they can pass. But this is a great way to prevent introverts from getting overlooked.

What other norms will keep you on track?

Close out thoughtfully

Save a few minutes at the end of your scheduled session to check in on the process. How did it feel for everyone? What worked well and what might you skip next time? Do they have other tactics to recommend?

The best answer to “How do I host a great virtual brainstorm?” is the answer that your own participants give you.

When scheduled for the right occasion and with the right people, brainstorms are a fabulous tool. Don’t be intimidated by them. Just be open to learning as you go.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

The average salary of a physical therapist is $84,020 per year.

If you’ve ever undergone physical therapy you know how important the work of physical therapists is. The job of a physical therapist is one that requires high levels of skill and training, as well as compassion and emotional intelligence. Let’s take a closer look at the profession and examine the average salary of a physical therapist. 

Find out now: How much should I save for retirement? 

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist: The Basics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a physical therapist is $84,020 per year, $40.40 per hour. That’s based on 2015 data. There were  210,900 physical therapists in the country as of 2014, but that number is expected to grow rapidly.

The job outlook for physical therapists (the percent by which the field will grow between 2014 and 2024) is 34%, according to BLS projections. That’s much faster than the average rate of growth for all professions (7%). It’s also faster than the job outlook for other in-demand medical professions. The job outlook for nurses is for 16% growth between 2014 and 2024. The job outlook for dentists is for 18% growth.

Check out our income tax calculator. 

Where Physical Therapists Earn the Most

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

National-level data on the average salary of a physical therapist obscures regional variation. So where do physical therapists make the most? According to BLS data, the top-paying state for physical therapists is Nevada, where physical therapists earn an annual mean wage of $121,980. Other high-paying states for physical therapists are Alaska ($100,560), Texas ($96,970), California ($95,300) and New Jersey ($95,150).

The top-paying metro area for physical therapists is Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV, where physical therapists earn an annual mean wage of $135,390. Other high-paying metro areas for physical therapists are Merced, CA ($130,220); Napa, CA ($125,970); Brownsville-Harlingen, TX ($124,700) and Laredo, TX ($119,310).

Related Article: The Best Jobs for Meeting a Mate

Becoming a Physical Therapist

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

To enter the physical therapy profession, physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. States also require physical therapists to be licensed to practice their profession.

Physical therapists who are committed to a particular specialty within the field can apply for board certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). The ABPTS offers board-certification in nine physical therapy specialty areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Oncology, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Sports and Women’s Health.

Attaining the credentials necessary for a career in physical therapy is an expensive undertaking. Like other degrees, physical therapy degrees have increased in cost in recent years, leading to higher levels of student debt among physical therapists.

The American Physical Therapy Association lists the costs of a DPT degree. Public in-state tuition for physical therapy averages $14,427, but ranges from $3,387 to $45,340. Public out-of-state tuition averages $29,157, but ranges from $8,425 to $65,156. Finally, private tuition averages $31,716, but ranges from $19,500 to $94,020.

Bottom Line

If helping people heal, eliminate pain and improve their mobility appeals to you, becoming a physical therapist might be the right career move for you. The education and training required of physical therapists is rigorous, but the salaries that physical therapists earn are high and the job outlook is very strong. As the population of the U.S. ages, physical therapists will be in greater demand than ever. The recent opiate crisis is also likely to refocus attention on non-pharmaceutical methods of pain management such as physical therapy. In short, becoming a physical therapist is a solid career move.

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