Unleashing creativity with remote Crazy 8s.

By Nicole Bartlett

Luckily for the Tech World, the idea of remote working had long been in existence before the arrival of Covid-19. Teams around the globe were set up for collaborating across different departments and time zones. Video calls and file sharing are self explanatory, so what happens when you need to brainstorm and rapidly ideate whilst you're apart?

What are Crazy 8s?

For anyone new to the concept, WithGoogle define Crazy 8s as:

A fast sketching exercise that challenges people to sketch eight distinct ideas in eight minutes. The goal is to push beyond your first idea, frequently the least innovative, and to generate a wide variety of solutions to your challenge.
Image source: withgoogle.com

We use Crazy 8s during both internal brainstorming sessions and Design Sprints with clients, to unlock all the brilliant ideas that can sometimes be locked within the subconscious mind.

Which challenges can Crazy 8s solve?

  • Challenges that are big enough for people to block time out of their day (not, which colour should this button be?).
  • New challenges that you haven't faced as a team before.
  • Disruptive ideas. If you need to think outside the box, and do things differently to your competitors, this exercise is for you.

Setting up your remote session.

Before you host your remote event, it's important that all participants are on the same page. Does everyone understand the challenge and the scope?

Pre-flight checklist
  • Schedule your event. You'll need at least 30 minutes to brief your team and complete the exercise.
  • Set up your art boards (more details below). Make sure everyone attending has a digital workspace.
  • Brief your participants; they'll need a stable internet connection and preferably a mouse or drawing tablet.
Tools for the job.
  • Video call. To host your online workshop, you'll need to use a service like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype.
  • Art board design. Sketch, Photoshop or Miro are all great ways to create your digital, 8-section, A4 sheets.
  • Realtime digital whiteboard. InVision and Miro both offer free, collaborative whiteboard spaces for teams.
  • Or keep it old school. Of course you can each draw your eight ideas onto paper, take a photo of what you've done and import it to a realtime whiteboard like InVision Freehand or Miro.
InVision Freehand's realtime whiteboard. Artboards designed in Sketch.

The meeting.
  • Recap. Remind your team of the challenge, the scope and any progress made to date.
  • Introduce the exercise. Give participants an overview of what they'll be doing; producing eight ideas in eight minutes. Remind them that it's normal to feel stressed during Crazy 8s and to keep pushing past their initial ideas.
  • Introduce the tools. Give your team a quick demo on how to use whichever tool you've decided to go with.
Ready, set, go!
  • Time. If you're using a realtime whiteboard, we recommend increasing the time to 90 seconds for each rectangle. Drawing online is slower and less natural than drawing on paper.
  • Facilitate. Give your team words of encouragement as they'll be feeling the pressure. Tell them when it's time to move on to the next section.
  • Individual presentation. When everyone has had a few moments to catch their breath, ask each person to present their ideas to the group.
  • Team vote. Give the team 5 minutes to silently vote on their favourite ideas. Ideas that they believe solve your challenge or can be iterated on. We don't limit the amount of votes per person. If someone loves an idea, they should feel free to vote on it multiple times.
  • Conclusion. Take stock of the votes and decide on next steps for your team.
Three Crazy 8s pages with team votes.

What are the pros?
  1. Speed. In just 12 minutes a team of 3, generates 24 different ideas.
  2. Anyone can contribute. You don't have to be a designer to draw shapes and stick-people.
  3. Reduced hierarchy. As voting is done in silence, people cannot be easily influenced and everyone has an equal say.
Are there any cons?
  1. Internet connection. If someone has a poor internet connection, perhaps they can take part on paper and upload a picture of their drawings.
  2. New tools. Drawing on a realtime board takes a little practice and a lot of patience, hence increasing the time per exercise to 90 seconds.

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