Pekka Murto // March 27 2020

Co-creation in a digital workshop setting

Workshops, design sprints and face-to-face user testing are essential methods for co-creating successful products and services with your customers and users. Although they do not mix very well with social distancing and not being able to meet people in person, there are plenty of tools that can help maintain co-creation activities when work moves to the virtual world.

We have learned that the best way to plan and think about virtual co-creation is, well, to think how an actual physical workshop with power tools, workbenches, wrenches and so on, is set up. In a workshop, you typically find a variety of tools that you can use for different purposes – a hammer works for some tasks while a saw works for others and best results are often achieved with a combination of a variety of tools. Also, when multiple people work together in a workshop, the work to be done needs to be organised and distributed effectively – not everyone can work with the same tool at the same time. Finally, finishing touches are often best achieved in a space removed from the dust and debris of the workshop.

With these ideas in mind, here are a few tips and tools that can help you run effective workshops online.

1. Blueprint, prepare and communicate
Blueprints help you define and divide big tasks into smaller and manageable pieces of work. To this end, virtual workshops require a little more blueprinting in advance to be effective. Virtual collaboration tools are mostly easy to learn and use, but they still do not beat the ease of pen and paper. So, ensuring that everyone in a workshop can participate effectively may often require rehearsal and warming up with the tools in use.

Communication in virtual workshops is among the easier issues to establish. We like Google Hangouts, but Skype, Teams and Zoom do an equally good job in keeping the workshop team communication going through audio, video and messaging.

2. Get work done
There are plenty of tools that can help you get the heavy lifting of workshops done. In our virtual workshops, we often use virtual whiteboard tools such as Mural or Miro to achieve best results.

In Mural, we like the variety of different templates and having the typical design workshop tools – post-its, timers, voting and “summoning” everyone to the same place – quickly at hand. In Miro, we especially like its intuitive user interface and tools and the fact that templates often come with connectors between the elements.

One of the most important things to remember in virtual workshops is timing and scheduling. In a normal workshop environment, participants have the opportunity to get up and walk around the room – and still participate in the workshop 100%. In virtual workshops, participants are glued to their screens with less room to move. Therefore, to stay productive, virtual workshops should have more flexible schedules, shorter sessions and sufficient breaks in between sessions. 

3. Test, validate and iterate
Collecting the rewards from workshops and design sprints (whether physical or virtual) may sometimes be challenging, especially in long and complex development projects. This is where our LeanLab community platform steps in. LeanLab provides an excellent platform for extending workshops in the digital environment. It provides just the kind of flexibility that virtual workshops require by enabling participants to contribute when their schedule best suits them.

Furthermore, LeanLab is useful for engaging with users and stakeholders over a long period of time and ensuring that ideas and insights that do not surface in the hustle and bustle of a workshop do get heard eventually. Also, having a tool for conducting quick surveys, tasks or concept validation is handy and having all the information within the LeanLab platform is even better!

The benefit of LeanLab is especially in engaging with a large community of users and stakeholders to truly co-create successful products and services. With capabilities for both quantitative and qualitative data collection, we like to see the platform of our very own Swiss Army Knife that ensures that the voice of users and customers gets heard in development projects.

That said, we are happy to help you and your organisation deal with the hurdles that the current situation may set in the way of your co-creation activities. You can contact us at hellohelsinki@digitalistgroup.com

We are also hosting two webinars, one in Finnish and one in English, about the topic. Please check out the agenda and register here:
Webinaari: Yhteistyö ja osallistaminen etänä 2.4.2020 klo. 10:00
Webinar: Remote Co-creation 7.4.2020 klo. 10:00