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Author's profile photo Thomas BENAROYA

10 non-obvious tips for successful virtual innovation workshops

 

 

OPTIMIZE YOUR TECHNICAL SET UP

 

The core technologies we use to deliver successfully include a combination of ZOOM and MURAL. In a nutshell, SAP Innovate to Win will host virtual workshops were the participants will leverage 2 platforms in parallel:

  • ZOOM for visual, audio and chat communications. We have also used Microsoft Teams, in lieu of ZOOM, but have found that the latter performs faster with stronger functionalities for managing teams composed of internal and external participants.
  • Mural for virtual “whiteboarding” where the traditional components of our workshop such as canvasses, ‘sticky’ notes and prototype material have been migrated virtually for team collaboration.

In this configuration, we have been able to run workshops for up to 60 attendees with very limited performance issues.

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #1:

Invest in an extra Screen

For optimal collaboration, my preferred set up is to have ZOOM with chat and video on my small computer screen and extend projection of Mural on my large screen. When facilitating, I will share my MURAL screen through ZOOM for those participants who are initially lost when navigating the virtual canvass. Participants that join our workshops though their laptop only, may find it initially challenging to navigate between ZOOM chat, ZOOM video and MURAL.

Bandwidth allowing, we also encourage our participants to turn videos on for us to recreate that intimacy that comes with physical workshops.

 

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #2:

Use a dedicated mouse or a track pad

Deploying a mouse, was probably for me the biggest ‘game changer’ for me in enjoying the virtual workshop experience. Pre-COV-ID-19, our extensive travel schedule for the delivery of on-site physical engagement meant that items such an extra mouse did not make it in the travel bag. The mouse will help for a much better experience especially for navigating in MURAL.

As a nice to have, we would also recommend an extra external speaker or headset (for those who are joining from a child rich environment).

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #3:

Navigate with Google Chrome

Given the number of participants on a call and the parallel use of ZOOM and MURAL, bandwidth and connectivity can become a concern. In our experience Google Chrome is the fastest browser that works best with MURAL.

 

PREPARATION IS KEY

 

Similarly, to physical workshops, a good level of preparation is required in terms of agreeing on workshop agenda, understanding expectation and inviting participants. Whilst logistics has considerably been simplified; we have found that some technical arrangements need to be considered. Parking, coffee, room booking, breakfast have indeed been replaced with participants needing a smooth onboarding experience. For many participants, the array of digital tools may be overwhelming and kicking off the workshop may be considerably disturbed when participants have challenges accessing platforms and getting assigned to their teams.

 

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #4:

Form and communicate to the Teams in advance

Like in physical Design Thinking workshops, virtual workshops require for us to divide participants into teams. While physically, the teams can spread across the workshop space, digitally the teams will break out into digital rooms (‘Breakout rooms’ in ZOOM or ‘Channels’ in Microsoft Teams). Especially, in workshops with a large number of participants, we recommend:

  • To form teams in advance using the same criteria you would for physical workshops.
  • To send a welcome note prior to the workshops to introduce team members to each other (if previously unknown) and to share login procedure to the tools you would be leveraging during the workshop. You may even want to get participants to confirm that they have successfully accessed the environment prior to the workshop start.
  • ZOOM allows for participants to rename themselves. To further accelerate team forming at the beginning of the workshop, we ask each participant to rename themselves in ZOOM to include their team number in the prefix of their name. For example, Thomas Benaroya will become T1_Thomas Benaroya.
  • In Microsoft Teams, after having created a ‘Teams’ for the workshop we will create as many private channels as teams to allow for the various teams to breakout in their respective calls.

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #5:

Schedule your workshops in chunks of 3 hours

We have found that beyond 3 hours we lose people’s ‘digital’ energy and attention. What physically would have run over a full working day, we now breakdown in 2 sessions of 3 hours or 3 sessions of 2 hours. As a silver lining, by going virtual:

  • We are no longer bound by geography and can save on travel cost
  • We can leverage the time between the sessions to get our participants to perform fieldwork, to have conversations with their users and to test and validate their prototypes.

 

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #6:

Don’t forget support coaches

As compared to physical workshops, virtual workshops require more support manpower to help the various teams navigate the instructional design within their respective breakout rooms. Our set up includes a head coach who orchestrates the workshop, delivers the content and sends teams into breakout rooms with the support of coaches who take over within those spaces. This avoids idle time, where teams are waiting for the head coach to jump into their breakout room.

 

DESIGN DIGITAL BREAKS

 

When running physical workshops, we would always welcome participants with breakfast or lunch. We would also punctate the day with several coffee breaks. These moments are extremely important for socializing, building customer intimacy and creating the ‘risk free zone’ we need for design thinking. We have had to re-design that experience. Here are a couple tips to help for those moments during digital breaks.

 

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #7:

Play Music

When welcoming participants at the beginning of the call or during digital breaks play music or videos clips. Participants will know that the session starts when the music stops. Music helps avoid those awkward moments while waiting for participants to join the call.

 

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #8:

Play games, run surveys

To stimulate participants during digital breaks or prior to session start, we encourage games and surveys.  For example,

  • try our “SAP Wheel of Purpose” to raise awareness around some of the UN Sustainable development goals.
  • run fun surveys. ZOOM also allows for polling. We will ask our participants: “How many coffees they have had today.”
  • Create fun competitions with participants on the content previously presented. Kahoot is a great tool to embed in your digital breaks.

 

RUN THE WORKSHOPS

Excluding technology, we have found that the ingredients to running a virtual workshop are no different to physical ones. Like in physical workshops, we will use icebreakers, present business cases, use a timer, leverages our ‘digital’ canvases, cluster sticky notes and prototype digitally. In larger engagements we will prompt conversations through the ‘Chat’ functionality to avoid participants speaking over each other. In the virtual set up, coaches obviously need also to be fluent in the various technologies supporting the creative process. Additionally, we will allocate time for the participants to get familiar with MURAL and the tools themselves.

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #9:

Document the workshop

Documenting the workshop is made much easier when delivering the workshops virtually. Here are some of the features we have discovered that accelerates the documentation process:

  • In MURAL, you can export your MURAL as PDF or PNG. You can export your various area as images. You can perform a mass copy of “sticky notes” as TEXT.
  • In ZOOM or MS teams, you can export your chat and record the workshops.
  • During Empathy, we will use Qualtrics to capture interview and drive Persona centric insight. All the interview results are easily accessible to the participants through reports and dashboards.
  • We encourage the use of digital prototyping tools such as SAP Build for your project lifecycle, Storyboardthat for storyboards, or https://proto.io/ for wireframes. All these tools allow to document user feedback in real time.

 

SAP Innovate to Win Tip #10:

Execute with Innovate to Win, powered by SAP

Try our modular offering: we will empower you and your team to co-create, validate and implement innovative solutions that generate value for your stakeholders in virtual and hybrid setups. Using a unique blend of tools from Design Thinking, Business Model Innovation, Positive Psychology and other leading innovation methodologies, we provide the skills needed to enhance the success of break-through innovation and motivate employees with the “Confidence to Innovate”.

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Thomas Benaroya is Program Head at SAP Innovate to Win. SAP Innovate to Win is an innovation enablement and coaching service that blends proven frameworks like Design Thinking and Business Modeling, powerful technology and a global network of expert coaches to help organizations and their teams solve complex problems and get the confidence to innovate. Get in touch and start your innovation journey (https://people.sap.com/thomas.benaroya)

 

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      Author's profile photo Jhon Malkovish
      Jhon Malkovish

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