Advocates of co-located teams believe that effective brainstorming simply can’t happen unless everyone is in the same room. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of whiteboards in my day, and being in front of one doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll contain something of substance.

That said, I also agree when people roll their eyes about using messaging platforms for in-depth virtual exchanges. Big ideas are difficult to discuss in an online chat, even synchronously. Conference calls require an online video component, and video chats are usually spent staring at your colleagues’ tiled images, distracting backgrounds, or wandering pets. Not exactly an environment ripe for creativity or productive ideation.

In person it is then, right? Time to fly everybody to the same spot so they can be in front of the proverbial whiteboard, markers in hand. Because this is where all the magic happens. I mean, the Yahoos and IBMs of the world can’t be wrong—can they?

Here are a few tech tools for virtual brainstorming that are bursting this theory wide open—including use cases for distributed teams in the field:

1. MeetingRoom.io

What sucks the life out of online meetings is their lack of personalization, and what often contributes to miscommunication is a lack of visual cues. This is, at least, what MeetingRoom founder Jonny Cosgrove believes.

The Dublin-based entrepreneur has worked with his distributed team to develop a tool that brings people into a virtual room together (yes, with an option to edit and save digital whiteboards!) as themselves. You read that right: in this meeting, you actually attend as an avatar, and can face your teammates just as you would in a face-to-face setup. Pretty cool, right?

2. MURAL

Created by CEO Mariano Suarez Battan, MURAL came to life to solve a collaboration issue when working in distributed teams. With offices in San Francisco and development operations in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company is constantly using its own tool, which enables teams to use sticky notes on grids for synchronous collaboration with a spatial twist, and be able to track changes along the way.

MURAL also offers training on a variety of topics, from remote design thinking and brainstorming to how to use the product with multiple devices.

3. Appear.in

Acquired in December 2017 by Videonor, Scandinavian startup appear.in was setting an impressive pace as an independent video conference tool for remote teams—one that also was built by a distributed team. (Yes, there’s a pattern here.) Their SaaS platform combines video, screen sharing, and the ability to simultaneously access productivity apps like Trello and Slack. Perhaps best of all, users aren’t required to log in or install programs on their machines. (High five for one fewer password to remember and protect!)

There it is, folks. You can instead save a big chunk of your travel budget for investing in professional development for your team or have an impactful in-person retreat. The best part? You don’t have to sacrifice on innovation just because you’re not physically gathered somewhere. Like your team, that kind of magic doesn’t have geographic limits.

So don’t spend your hard-earned revenue on uninspiring business trips or reserving conference rooms; isn’t that why we’ve all gone remote in the first place?

Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com