Last week, we held our first online Design Thinking workshop. Our main concern was establishing a positive group energy, which is vital to stimulating creativity. In face-to-face workshops, it is easier to promote this energy through body language, icebreakers and energisers, group work, physical movement, creative materials, and incorporating fun into our approach. In a remote workshop, this is much more challenging. Optimistic as always, we followed the advice of Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
The experience was enriching and proved something to us: Creativity does not need to be created through group energy, it is already there in the people you are training.
1. Workshop programme
We prepared the programme as we always do. We produce two versions, one for the participants and one for the trainers. The one for trainers provides guidelines and a list of tasks that we divided between me and Marzena. We found this approach especially important for online sessions as it is not as easy to confer with your co-facilitator. Organising and dividing up tasks in advance was crucial for running a smooth session.
Before the workshop, we also spent couple of hours testing our online tools. We tried out Zoom and its different features. This, again, proved important to prevent technical glitches that could interfere with our participants’ experience of the workshop, and to put our own minds at ease!
During the workshop, we were strict about time keeping. With online sessions, participants are stuck in front of their computers for an extended period. Delays and time wastage are therefore more frustrating. They can’t chat with the person beside them or get up and move around. It’s important, therefore, to streamline your approach to ensure that your workshop is concise and keeps participants engaged.
We love to energise people. In our usual workshops, we incorporate a variety of activities that encourage people to exercise, play, have fun or just breathe mindfully. The energiser we use depends on the group and their needs. Online workshops are a different story, but they are still fundamentally about engaging people and giving them to chance to have a good time. For this workshop, we asked each participant to demonstrate an exercise that the whole group then had to copy. We were doing squats, jumping jacks, stretching, and yoga poses 😊
As we were using Zoom, we could also use polls, which are an excellent energising tool. It allows for instant group feedback to questions. For energisers, fun or silly questions are encouraged! We asked our group about their favourite morning beverage.
3. Online creative tools
We were able to run the whole Design Thinking workshop using completely free online tools. Our “Empathy Phase” utilised Google Docs. Participants were divided into two groups and used a Google Doc to work together and prepare a mood board for their imagined end user.
For brainstorming, we used Google Jamboard, which is a recent discovery for us that we also use during our M-Powered creative team meetings.
4. Empowering Design Thinking Cases
In an online workshop environment, it is much more difficult to manage the energy of the group and sense their level of engagement than it is in a face-to-face session. Therefore, you need to try different methods to sustain group engagement.
We decided to use some theatrics to keep the group entertained! Let me introduce our Design Thinking personas: Gośka, a liberated woman and passionate customer of online dating services, and Naomi, an eccentric travel and cat enthusiast.
Gośka and Naomi
We used these personas as fictional end users for whom our group had to develop creative solutions using the Design Thinking Method. It was amazing to see how well they empathised with these characters, and how motivated they were to design an innovative product or service for them. This approach proved to be fun and effective, kept our participants engaged, and fully demonstrated the Design Thinking Method with Gośka and Naomi serving as excellent examples of “extreme users”.
After the course, we felt that we had uncovered a new world for our business. We will always enjoy and value meeting people face-to-face and bringing them to beautiful places where they can learn, rejuvenate themselves, and connect with nature. However, online learning can be just as impactful, offers the opportunity to connect with people in new and creative ways, and – importantly – helps us to navigate crises like this pandemic.