Let's talk going remote workshops and online innovation facilitation

With Steph Cruchon and Paul Van der Linden

Transcript

Stéph Cruchon and Paul van der Linden

Thank you so much for being here with us in the room and watching us live. This is amazing! We wanted to talk about remote design sprint and we think that it’s really something that’s hot right now. A lot of people are very interested about it and yeah we think it’s important to talk about it.

Turns out that Paul and I have now quite some experience of running remote design sprints. And we would like to share with you some tips and tricks and I guess Benjamin who is here,
James and Andrea who was also part of this conversation have a lot of tips and tricks because all of us we have been part of remote design sprints.

Maybe Paul could you just introduce yourself?

Yeah of course I can! I’m Dutch from origin I’m living in Switzerland already for quite some time, almost 20 years and been in digital innovation since actually 1986 already. And when Stéph asked me to do this conversation on Friday afternoon I was thinking okay.

Video conferencing and remote working when did I first encounter that and actually it was already in 1992 when I had my first video conferencing and sort of remote sessions with the Americas, when I was working at Philips Lighting. We did an Internet project or actually our first internet project demonstrating the power of lighting solutions in city safety and at that time did the whole remote work was really only available in the boardroom. So there was a big camera, television sets and then things like that but the technology sort of improved.

But the way we had to deal with the problems were exactly the same we have now, that we will also discuss today, so nothing changed in that sense so much over, yeah, is it 30 years almost? It was interesting to to see so that’s a little bit short so a lot of experience in remote working we know for remote workshops not only for design sprints.

And lately Paul we have been working together part of the master classes right because Paul is a Design Sprint fellow. When we run Design Sprint Masterclasses and when we have a lot of people, we need co-facilitators. So of course we call our fellows to to help us. Paul was facilitating one group of Design Sprint Masterclass, so a lot of fresh experience of running online sprints.

What’s you tip number one? Getting to know remote design sprint participants

In order to basically get on the same level with participants, it would be nice for example that I know her favorite drink or a favorite movie. Because then if she for example says I’m a hard rock fan and I know all the 32 albums of KISS then that might relate to me and she is immediately a person and not just the director of art in the portrait museum.

But she is a person and for me a good collaboration is try to humanize people that you are going to work intensively during first five days so that would be my first tip to put everybody at ease.

So the way we did it in our Design Sprint Master Classes. To start we create a Miro or Mural board and we asked people to just add a photo of yourself writing on the stickies. You you know, like basically what are you favorite drinks, favorite movie…

On thing we have been doing too – is to have a world map and ask participants to pinpoint exactly where they are. And already it creates a bit of interaction. It’s an easy task to do so, you know, you can just open Miro or Mural and do something very easy at first before going crazy showing the canvas. That’s a good start of a Remote Design Sprint.

Remote Design Sprint Onboarding

And it brings us immediately to the tip number two. Tip number two is the moment you are asking people how can you for example put your favorite movie or your favorite drink on the board. Like this they need to put a post-it, so they familiarize immediately with remote working tools without really thinking of what do I need to do, how do I put a post-it up.

So playfully you already know your way a little bit around the Miro or Mural board without being stressed. and you can already start using the remote working tools. It makes you at ease at the same time.

I will share my screen just so you can see how remote Design Sprint looks like and basically the templates that we are using that might be interesting. What you see here is the template we use for a remote design sprint. This is the template that wehave created that became the official Remote Design Sprint template.

It’s because Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Jackie Colnburn were part of it. That’s a template that you can find for free or you can just click on Mural or Miro, it exists for both platforms. You write Official remote design sprint template and you can get it for your own use.

So far there are two versions that exist: one in English one in French if you guys were watching us and you speak another language like Spanish Japanese, Chinese whatever you can tell us and it would be so amazing if you guys would be interested to translate the templates.

The way Miro and Mural templates work it is like guided activities for the whole week. You can just zoom in and you see here that’s the activities for the day one so the one of the Sprint long-term goal, Design Sprint questions… You can really zoom in to a crazy level to see exactly all the activities and how it works.

So we guide the group throughout the days going from exercise to exercise. At first it’s very scary, you enter that new remote environment and you are like oh my god I have a whole week of work just in front of my eyes, so people are a bit scared.

What I would recommend for the online sprint on boarding, is to create another empty canvas or almost empty with very simple activity. It could be an icebreaker, could be a world map, whatever… so people can familiarize with the tool before going through the real design sprint template.

Importance of the background during remote workshop

I think it’s time to stop screen sharing. I don’t know whether you saw that, but this is actually something that happens all the time during online design sprints.

Be careful with what you show. There was my daughter running in the back… Be aware that if you are working remotely that everything what is happening behind you is visible and will be visible in principle for all time your are working remotely with zoom. You don’t know whether somebody takes a screenshot and of course this was staged.

It’s important how your background might look and what is happening in the background of your screen also.

Honestly I don’t care for real how your background looks like, but it’s important make sure that people are not distracted by by what they see.

The camera is a very important topic. I don’t know why, but a lot of people tend to turn off the camera and for me when you do heavy activities online , what we are doing right now. Because of COVID19 there is kind of etiquette, I think it is very important to keep the camera on, that just simply mean- I care about what we are doing.

You see if people turn on the camera, they are with us in the online room, it’s not that we are controlling them, but it just means that I’m with you guys, I care. It’s so important to know what participants are doing when you are running an online sprint. During in-person workshop it’s pretty easy you can see if
someone’s grabbing the phone, doing something else. You see if the person really feels bad, when it’s enough and you need to make a break.

With Julien we were teaching a few weeks ago and it was crazy. out of the class of twenty students there were 17 students who turned their camera off.
Yeah…the students love to put their camera off.This is really disturbing because it feels like you are speaking to the walls…It’s important for facilitators and for participants to be able to put a face on the people and just to to see how they react.

Using Zoom if you press the space button you unmute yourself without having the need to use mouse. Which smoothens the interaction between participants and it becomes a dialogue.

Remote Design Sprint Rules

Tip number four. It’s really related to what we actually have during an in-person Design Sprint. We need to have the same discipline so if you are in a room with others and you’re working on your design sprint, you’re doing tasks. You hate when people meanwhile you are working, are taking their mobile phone and doing other stuff or calling their moms or do upload photos on the Instagram.

Actually, you need to ask and I think you can even demand people to have the same rules. So while we are working make sure that you spend time really on the topic of design sprint and all the rest can wait for the little breaks or the long lunch pauses.

Because working remotely it’s easy to have my second or third screen and to do my fortnight at the same time.Of course things like this will not help the success of the remote design sprint.

It’s actually funny because you know some participants, especially students sometimes think that we don’t see what’s going on. But for really you can see, because they have glasses or even you can see from their eyes that they are on Facebook. We know this because it’s easy to recognize the blue of Facebook or to see the video game in the glasses.

In fact, that’s why I have contact lenses now.

Design Sprint Onboarding – testing the tools and equipment

When we run a remote design sprints there is all that part of onboarding which is very important. In a regular design sprint you can just bring people in the room, you explain couple of rules and then it works and you can start. For remote design sprint we usually have an onboarding. Couple of days before the sprint we ask people if they could join the zoom meeting for like 15 to 20 minutes.

We test all remote working tools which we use during online design sprints. We test zoom, we test Mural, or Miro. We test the webcams, the sound, etc. The sound is so important!

People think they need a crazy microphone or crazy gear for remote workshop. For real, you don’t need all of this. Like Paul, your sound is amazing and you just have headphones. Right, the standard Apple ear plugs. Almost all headphones have a little part in here. There’s a microphone hidden, so you do sound really good with very simple material.

We also check the internet connection of the participants. If you have an onboarding before your remote design sprint, in couple of minutes you will see exactly who is gonna have some issues of connection.

In a remote setting it is important to have a Slack open or whatsapp group during the whole remote workshop time. This have saved our workshops so many times, especially if you have some technical issues. It is also amazing to have this during breaks, to have some fun. Like for example sharing photos of our meals to keep an interaction between the group going on. Of course, you need to choose the right tool for the right team. WhatsApp might feel a bit personal in some context. So instead we would be using Slack…Slack is a bit more technical but if you see already that you will need to have a lot of document sharing and all of these maybe it’s interesting to consider it.

Slack also works on mobiles, so it could use your internet connection. For workshop facilitators it’s a nice way to get help or share information.

During the remote design sprint it is normal to have some technical issues. You have those during in-person design sprints as well. There is that part called you know the lightning demos when you have to just connect the computer to show couple of slides, couple of websites… This specific part doesn’t work sometimes because it’s a bit technical.

In remote Design Sprint we spend a full week with zoom so it’s almost impossible to avoid technical issues. Couple of weeks ago we had our Remote Design Sprint Masterclass with three groups and each group had their facilitator or co facilitator. So in any case a problem was there what we did is was to assign the facilitator or co-facilitator to the person that had the issue and take them out of the real session.

For example if Jojo has connection problems, or his audio is not working and we as a group are trying to solve that for 15-20 minutes and with remote sprint we are on a tight schedule it’s a valuable time tthe group is losing.That’s why it’s important to have the co-facilitator, to take them apart and if there is still internet connection go in a breakout room and try to understand what the real problem is and take that problem completely away from the team that it could continue to work.

The Importance of Remote Design Sprint Co-facilitator

I was having a remote workshop two weeks ago and there was one lady who said – I really hate all this remote work, it’s never working for me and she was already having this natural dislike of doing remote and then if there is
somebody in the team that is also having all kinds of technical issues that will strengthen her feeling, I don’t like remote because it’s not working. I think that can be avoided by immediately taking the problem out,solve it and bringing the people back in into the room. So the tip is never do it alone. Always make sure that you have a co-facilitator.

You understands yet the whole setup of a remote environment and and take the problem immediately out and and don’t feel sorry like oh I’m taking out the executive or I’m taking out the most favorite person in the room now. Because it’s simply disturbing for the persons
and creates it I think it you don’t need to be a technical wizard.

Best browser for remote virtual workshop

Most of the problems there are pretty simple. most of the time 50 percent of the time you just need to say which browser are you using? Okay Microsoft edge, don’t use Microsoft edge you know it all. So I guess you can already fix half of the problems with just using Chrome or a good browser.

Then there is internet connection and then it’s like I’ve seen more problems on PCs than Mac but I think it’s more because it’s like all computers and like really business computers no these people who work with small screens, like this this big. These computers are made for writing emails and it’s not made at all for actually work and I’m just writing emails or using an excel so that’s an issue.

Importance of using 2 or more screens during the Remote Design Sprint

Having a second screen is for two reasons extremely important because at this moment I am really talking to you. I see everybody but let’s assume that I also have to work on the on the my row and I’m trying at the same time stay in contact with you. And to see your expressions it’s impossible because my screen is too small. Especially on tiny business PC. I have everybody on the right side I have my shared screen on the left side I need to look something up on the other one and it’s basically yeah you you’re getting lost. And actually you’re switching from one application to the other constantly.

So having a second screen for remote workshop is a must. With second screen you can have one dedicated to the zoom, to the visual and audio contact and one where you work on is simply ideal to have everything you need on the right location and you stay in touch your group. You stay motivated and connected and on the other side you can work and use the full space.

My remote work setup is now my small screen with the zoom so that I see everybody still okay and on the the left side I have my workspace where I can do whatever I need because if I’m working in the design sprint together alone or alone together I am anyway working there so not distracted. But if I need to find a contact I can just turn my head straight and I see what’s happening so I would advise everybody if possible of course to either attach their TV set or an extra screen.

I think you said it already, a screen doesn’t need to be expensive you know. You just take an old screen you know like from somewhere that’s stored in your garage or you can find screens for like 40 or 50 dollars on Facebook marketplace or whatever. So it doesn’t need to be fancy just a second screen. AS you have said is so important you put the zoom the grid of people so when when I facilitate I always put zoom on grid mode.

Grid-mode on Zoom for better remote workshop collaboration

I’ll just go on top right and you can change the display of zoom to the grid mode. You can see every one and I put that zoom view just under my webcam so the screen that has a webcam it is so key because you are actually speaking to people. So you look at them while you speak because there is nothing more important than respect. But the nice thing about that as well as a little something I saw that talking
into a camera or two into a lens it’s a ittle bit awkward but I have this little gadget on top of my screen. Basically I’m talking to the little owl and then I have at least a face where I talk to me that’s critical. You need to look into something because the lens doesn’t do anything but just having this on top shows that I’m talking to someone at least so I’m see two eyes where I look.

If I look in the camera and that’s a simple thing but it’s still useful for for having this nice connection yeah and if you have only one screen maybe

Remote facilitation tricks with one screen

I can show you a short video with you of the remote workshop we’ve run a couple of weeks ago. Justlook what we did basically you have the
working space which was mural that was taking most of the screen 2/3 and 1/3 was zoom because you can easily reduce the size of the column you make a column with zoom in grid mode and then you have everyone nicely on the screen

I can show you a video of remote design sprint. Yes so that’s why it’s actually an interesting sprint because it was really remote design sprint to its full potential it wasn’t just one team it was three teams at the same time. It might sounds like a nightmare, but it’s actually possible. I will say it’s as complex as running three design Sprint’s at the same time in one room but you can actually facilitate it. The only thing you need to do is to have one main facilitator that’s kind of leading the exercises and then each group can work on their own design sprints.

Zoom breakout rooms for facilitating Multiple Remote Design Sprints at once

There is an amazing feature in zoom if you don’t have it yet you should just dig in the options and activate it it’s called zoom breakout rooms and this saved my life when I needed to facilitate multiple remote design sprints at once. The day when I when I discovered this
functionality so if you have it it’s a small icon with like four squares. It’s appearing down so it’s called zoom breakout, it’s also the free.

It’s amazing what it does is that it allows you to open some sub-rooms, some remote workshop rooms for like two or three people to work and you can send people to these rooms. It’s like you can have a main design sprint room with everyone like if you have 15 people you have 15 people at once then you open the room and you send groups of five in three different groups you recall everyone. I recall them in the main room and then we continued facilitation which is amazing at first it looks a bit scary because you like wait I open my rooms I need to assign people to the room.

So the first time you do it takes a bit of time but you just need to do it once to and then automatically you open and close the rooms like that. This is amazing and honestly there is no limits in how many Sprint’s at the same time you can run. Because you could have I don’t know you could have ten Sprint’s at the same time. You have a main facilitator with several teams so you need to be very clear with your facilitation.

Explaining clearly that’s what we’re gonna do in the next ten minutes, you give the exercise send people to the rooms. They do the exercise and you call them back. I’m gonna write in the chat breakout rooms from zoom and it’s free you just need to activate it in the
settings, since it’s not activated by default. I don’t know why because it’s the best functionality of zoom that’s why the Easter eggs are always hard to find.

A bit of advice, I was in the easy position because I was facilitating and giving the instructions and then opening the rooms and then Paul you were in the room with your group maybe you can share a bit about how it worked for you.

During the remote Design Sprint Masterclass it was a little bit different because it was let’s say accelerated sprints that we were doing, where everybody more or less understood the principles of the design sprint already so it was not new. But what I noticed is that the moments that we were in the group together and yes Steph was explaining the next steps that’s the quality of energy level was on the right level. But when going into the smaller rooms where we had only four phases and then really being in each other’s face the energy level went up immediately because everybody saw that we were so much closer to the other.

I like to talk and therefore I take a lot of room but there are people that have much more interesting things to say than me but simply because I’m talking they will not talk and if you have a smaller team as a facilitator you see much more like a somebody wants to say something and if somebody is taking the air space.

The smaller breakout rooms is extremely important for smaller more intense and more effective remote workshop. Using them I saw that energy really moving and people sort of as a team came out back to the main room.

Optimal size of the Remote workshop group

Smaller teams the energy immediately going up in that perspective I like that a lot.

There was recently a good research on remote workshops and from a lot of research and I will try to find the article but shows that a group of five in remote is the most optimal number for doing remote work and and actually we from an experience without having that report at that time so already that that there’s four people and and the facilitator was actually really great, really giving the right energy and then and commitment to each other actually to do it one moment of the screen that is critical.

Prototyping during Remote Design Sprints

When you storyboard what you cannot prototype so it’s that transition between we have a very good idea we have good ideas that we want to push forward, but now we need to make a prototype and taking the ideas that we want to push forward. We put them on the wall we’re like okay we have these two or three powerful ideas we’re gonna split the group in two or three teams and now we concentrate only on one part of the prototype.

We split the group, we let people work and then we meet in like say one hour one hour and a half and then people will be way more active, way more willing to work only on one part of the prototype. It’s the way you can absolutely and you should do the same with a virtual design Sprint’s, a remote sprint using the zoom breakout room so as soon as you start prototyping you should kind of assign the work, speed the work in smaller groups and then you create breakout rooms.

You send people for like one hour or so and then they come back with something tangible.

Importance of the breaks during remote working

I think is extremely important when working remotely and I think we were already feeling that we are now almost one hour in this call that everybody yeah we have a fantastic conversation so the energy levels are still high, but make sure that during the week there are really enough moments that you just have breaks, like five minutes for having a snack that you just you can take five minutes to stretch your legs. Because sitting at the desk is different than then walking around in a room
then step putting the sticky notes so make sure that you have enough time to give people to rest.

I have already used my bottle of water three or four times during this session because it is important that you stay hydrated and that you stay full of energy so make sure that you have some water and some snacks next to you.

I think is important since you cannot do a group lunch, make sure that people have really the time to go away so at least 45 minutes for a proper lunch so they can check their Instagram or Facebook or whatever you need to do else and then havea decent meal that you can really get back to energy levels.

I would advise not to make the sessions too long, so start at at nine ish and around mid-day have a break of 1 hour. And finish the day around 5 o’clock in the afternoon so that it is all not too long and that you keep your energy levels up

And personally think that think five days design sprint is really interesting in remote working because you can have shorter days, so it’s less tiring, it’s less stressful and it’s a format that that works really well for all participants. They had to take care of the kids to cook for the family so it’s also something we had in mind and we were giving one hour and a half of breaks.

Because of Covid19 people have really became really good at workingremotely and zoom. Of course you need to install zoom the first time, which is a bit annoying to install to use it ,but then it just click on the link and it works. And I guess, I have no stats, now a huge portion of the population has Zoom installed on the computer because at some point someone asked them to join the zoom meeting.

We had 15 people actively working in the sprint from more than 10 countries that the countries we had issues with was Nigeria and Lebanon for really technical issues like power outage in Lebanon. It’s no more that you have one hour per day you have no power and that’s normal that’s how it goes but turns out that these people they are used to this, but I was freaking out. I was like oh it’s not gonna work,they cannot leave. But no, they were super patient they were like okay guys I need to leave you because it’s the one hour power outage in Beirut and that’s the way it goes. I’m gonna join in one hour. So zoom definitely not a problem.

Miro/ Mural Design Sprint templates speed

I know Miro had a better better speed before and Mural did just updated the speed right now so it should be way better. But I would watch out to put too many images on the on the boards. If you can, and especially when you do solution sketch and you have to to upload the images on the board. Take some time to optimize them. You open Photoshop you optimize your images before adding them. This saves a lot a lot a lot of bandwidth because if people did take a photo on the iPhone because they have good camera in Africa so they have good iPhones. They take a photo upload the image and every single image is 10 to 15 megabytes which is crazy load so that’s a lot.

I think as facilitators you should collect the sketches you optimize them in Photoshop or whatever and you upload them that’s my top top advice.

User Testing during Remote Design Sprints

What you use for testing whether having a web testing a web app we have okay so you can try InVision maybe but you have to load it and I would go honestly with a zoom conversation with everyone who is already on the zoom. You invite the person on zoom and then you share your screen meaning that you have the prototype ready on your screen you share the screen and you ask the person to kind of react to what you are showing.

So it’s more guided, it’s less an accessibility tests like they don’t have to click themselves.