3 key things we learnt about remote innovation workshops

You know the old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? At HEAL, we decided to do just that by taking the sour COVID-19 confinement situation and using it to run the zestiest remote innovation workshops out there. After over a month of work, many iterations, learnings and failures, here are the “TOP 3” things we found were crucial when trying to maximize the output of digital innovation workshops.

1. Choose your tools wisely

If you’re not already bombarded with ads for meeting people digitally for work, or to play games with your friends, one quick Google search will make you realize that there are LOTS of digital tools available. This is good news as it means there are plenty of remote tools already out there, but you must pick them carefully as the right tool is crucial to running effective remote innovation workshops.

The tool you use to run an innovation session must be accessible to your audience. Consider people’s ability to use new digital platforms carefully. While some participants get excited exploring new tools, some don’t have the time or energy. Our tip: Simplicity creates electricity. At HEAL, we choose to work with Miro boards because it is easy-to-use, accessible to everyone and allows for synchronous working, closely simulating a real-life environment with useful features such as sticky notes, timers and other tools to unlock innovative and ‘electric’ work.

Use video whenever possible. This one comesas no surprise. We experienced that video increases the feeling of “togetherness” which you want to generate in these sessions while reducing our temptation to look at that latest video our colleague sent us on WhatsApp, answer that “very important” email that could easily wait, or just compare our next holiday destination ticket prices at the same time. In addition, it allows facilitators to read body language, when we know that 70 to 90% of communications is non-verbal, that’s something you can’t overlook.

 2. Set the right rhythm

Having participants working from home means that workshop structures need to be adapted to the current reality: some of us need to work while taking care of the kids, some are struggling with an incredibly high number of meetings. Overall, we have experienced that people need more flexibility to dedicate working time and half day working sessions are just not easy to run anymore. We found out short sessions (1.5h max) that split the workshop process over a week or two, while including both “get together” and “breakout” sessions are a favorable format that allow people to work on their own schedule.

3. Pay extra attention to group structures

The last element of our top three concerns is group structure. After running a few workshops digitally, we realized that while bringing all participants together for intros, reflections and wrap-ups works well, it is just not an efficient way to run ideation work. Experimentation showed us that individual work is a great way to achieve fast progress, pairing is excellent for ideation but as soon as a team reaches three participants online, it already creates “silent passengers” that tend to disrupt the process and digital team dynamics.

To wrap up, HEAL’s tips on efficient digital workshops: make it simple, make it flexible, make it small.

HEAL’s Discovery team