At present, state-of-the-art technology for design thinking typically consists of sticky notes and flipcharts. Though simple, these tools have long been effective and proponents of working on paper highlight both the tactile nature of the medium and the ease of use, as well as their ability to foster better communication.
This aged way of working, however, is incongruent with the realities of many modern organizations. Our research shows that, more and more often, teams are spread out across multiple locations. These days the likelihood of NOT having at least one remote colleague is rare.
What’s more, all of the information from paper-bound workshops eventually gets digitized anyway. Photos of whiteboards are usually unsatisfying attempts to digitize workshop output and seldomly get looked at again. Not to mention that transcribing information from sticky notes is time consuming.
This much we know: there’s a better way. It starts with going digital first, or conceiving of work in such a way that it is digital from the outset. Or, worst case, at least supporting methods that can be digitized very quickly with little effort.
At this point, technology is not a roadblock. There are well-working tools available that make it wholly possible for completely remote teams to work effectively and use visual methods to solve creative problems. Yet many design thinking practitioners still can’t imagine how that’s possible.
We took it upon ourselves to partner with design agency Hanno to once again prove how.
Our Remote Design Thinking Workshop
Together with Hanno, we co-hosted a two-and-a-half-hour remote Design Thinking workshop. While we’re not new to hosting workshops, this time we sought to increase the size of the group participating. In total there were 24 participants, which we divided into six groups.
- The technology we used included:
Zoom for audio, video and screen sharing. We also made extensive use of breakout rooms in Zoom, which helped us overcome the challenge of having individual breakout group conversations over a single audio channel. This way breakout rooms split the group into individual audio channels.
- Slack for chatting and providing feedback. For instance, we did some quick word-association exercises at the beginning of the session, at which point participants could respond to questions in the group Slack channel
- MURAL for capturing content and organizing feedback. We used one mural for the workshop presentation as well as separate murals for the breakout groups, where three to four people executed Design Thinking exercises at one time.
Click the image to see the presentation mural.
After a brief introduction, we ran a warm-up exercise. In addition to getting the participants talking, it also gave them a chance to get used to the tools and shifting between them.
The primary task was to find an image that captured what each participant wanted to be as a child. We gave each person two to three minutes to work individually. Then, everyone in the breakout group presented to the others.
Following the exercise, we reconvened as an entire group and reflected on the experience. More important than what the team had shared about their life plans, we focused the conversation on how we had worked remotely as a team during the task. Overall, the group was impressed at how smoothly they’d been able to collaborate effectively and complete the task.
Once everyone was comfortable, we conducted another exercise that would be the main objective of the day. It consisted of a four-step Design Thinking challenge. Here’s a look at the problem statement each of the breakout groups was presented with:
- Create a simple persona based on someone familiar who’s resistant to or skeptical of remote work.
- Derive statement starters from the needs and pains in the first step. Here, we generated “how might we….” statements, then each small group selected one HMW statement to work with.
- Next we asked the participants to brainstorm solutions. First, we had them consider how they could the situation WORSE. In this case, we actually encouraged them to come up with bad ideas. For instance, if the statement was, “How might we increase the sense of trust in remote collaboration?” A bad idea might be to record everyone’s mistakes and make those public. Then, after five minutes we asked the teams to come up with GOOD solutions because, often times, flipping the bad ideas lead to viable solution.
- Finally, we clustered the ideas and voted. We organized all of the good solutions from step three by theme. Then each group voted on the theme they thought would best address the original need and have the greatest impact.
We finished the session by once again reflecting on the day’s activities. To capture the sentiment, we added sticky notes in a mural based on three categories: I liked, I wish and I wonder, and all 24 attendees shared their thoughts and insights in a group discussion.
Overall, everyone involved in the remote session considered it to be a success, and feedback from the group was positive. Take it from the participant who said, “Amazing session, this was a great experience.”
Good news, since both MURAL and Hanno are committed to making remote Design Thinking commonplace among business across the globe. As our first collaborative Remote Design Thinking workshop, the success of it demonstrated the potential of future remote work.
If you’d like to continue learning online, check out Hanno’s workshops on UX design and remote collaboration or get in touch with Laïla to find out more.
MURAL also offers courses on design thinking and remote collaboration. Please contact Jim for more details.