Breakout rooms are designed to let ideas flow. In a previous post I talked about whiteboards and how they are a simple tool with the potential to boost your productivity and collaboration efforts. In this post we are going to take it one step further and talk about break out rooms.
A breakout room is a room designed to allow a small group of people to discuss and explore ideas with as little effort as possible. When ideas are flowing you want as little resistance as possible in terms of expressing them. The tools should fade into the background and let the ideas take center stage. You also don’t want distractions from the outside world
I have seen breakout rooms in a variety of configurations and utilising a variety of different tools. When designing your breakout room you really need to consider the way you and your team likes to work and the types of problems you are going to be solving. My best experience has been with the breakout rooms at my university so I’ll describe how they work to give you an idea.
Fist off the breakout rooms are built with reasonable sturdy walls. When inside you really don’t hear any of the hustle and bustle going on outside. The rooms are square and reasonably small (a few meters by a few meters). There is a table in the middle and they have conveniently placed power and networking underneath it as opposed to on the walls which is good for getting cable clutter out of the way. The walls are floor to ceiling, wall to wall whiteboard, including the door. Everything is white, except for the carpet. Typically laptops and a projector or two would be taken into the room.
We’ve now set the scene, let’s dive into the process.
We’ll start off by scribbling a broad target onto one of the walls in a predominant manner. This will keep the main idea in our mind. Next a few points that need to be covered are listed to keep us on track. Then the fun begins. Mindmaps, diagrams, lists everywhere. Then we add to it with lines all over the place to link ideas. The laptops are used to provide easy access to information as we need it but also in conjunction with the projectors (which display nicely on the whiteboard material) to beam screen shots and other material onto the walls. Here they can be further explore with markings scribbled all over them. Sometimes we’ll bring printouts of material or cutouts from magazines etc to blu-tac onto the walls where necessary also (great for storyboarding type activities and to provide examples of intended final product characteristics etc). At the end of it all we record any of our work as needed by digital camera.
The ideas are flowing in an uncontrolled and free manner. They’re bouncing off each other, mixing, mutating and creating. There are no rules. Don’t hold back. No idea is a bad idea. It could very well be the catalyst or inspiration for the next idea which turns out to be the winner. Do whatever works in order to express and explore. Most importanty, have fun.