After the outbreak, companies around the world quickly adopted tools such as video conferencing technology to promote remote collaboration within distributed teams. Despite the adoption of this technology, large workshops that have traditionally relied on physical spaces continue to be face-to-face events. Many organizations.
I get it, face-to-face meetings help foster friendships and sidebar conversations. Employees can get away from constant Slack and email notifications and focus on the task at hand. But in my experience, face-to-face work meetings can also create huge inefficiencies. Many colleagues are forced to dust off their suits and travel, disrupting their daily routines and sleeping habits. Despite efforts to bring everyone together in person, it is inevitable that some people either live in distant markets or are unable to attend in person and must attend in person. Virtual dialing leads to fragmented experience. Whiteboarding is done on large sticky notes and requires someone to take photos and manually transcribe the information for digital sharing. Employees end up spending long days in conference rooms, feel exhausted, and often feel obligated to attend happy hours.
Companies aiming to maintain or even enhance creativity, culture and engagement need to invest in alternatives that meet the flexibility of the current business environment.
According to a Gallup poll, 51% of employees say they are disengaged from their jobs. The difficulty is maintaining a strong company culture when most interactions occur through screens (source).
Benefits of Virtual Seminars
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While many consider in-person workshops to be more personal and interactive than remote meetings, new and innovative technologies are bringing benefits to distributed brainstorming:
- productive forces: Parallel team ideation can significantly save time on voting, shorten the time to create artifacts using templated digital materials, and use digital features such as timers to speed up decision-making.
- save costs: Digital meetings are much more cost-effective than teams traveling to a centralized location, workspaces are faster to set up, and they require less logistical coordination than in-person meetings.
- Greater inclusiveness: Virtual session prevention groupthinkto create a fair environment where no one individual or group dominates ideas.
- Simplify documentation and scale: Teams can easily share workshop documents, create standardized company-wide templates, and integrate with existing external digital tools/workflows. Digital whiteboards retain the “whole story” of a meeting and reduce the need to repeat notes.
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As a management consultant, I often play the role of facilitator, integrating virtual workshops into various scenarios for my clients. Here are some of the ways I use remote workshops to enhance collaboration:
- flow chart: Work with the team to develop new marketing processes by grouping different stakeholder groups and mapping the current state of the customer journey from start to finish. Understanding the customer journey helps teams come up with innovative ideas for the future state.
- Gap assessment: Created a structured collaborative discovery framework to help companies identify gaps between people, processes and technology in current operations. Recommendations to address current challenges are voted on and prioritized, creating designs for future projects.
- OKR Coaching: Use a virtual whiteboard to organize ideas for OKR development. The team identified strategic themes and prioritized the most critical areas of focus. We develop an actionable plan with clear objectives and key results.
- review: Use the Agile retrospective framework “Rose, Bud, Thorn” to review and reflect on projects that require cross-functional collaboration between teams. The team left feeling like they had developed a culture of continuous improvement and ultimately improved morale.
Other popular use cases include prototyping, “design thinking,” team stand-ups, strategic planning, licensing projects, and more.
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To ensure a successful virtual brainstorming session, consider these best practices:
- Choose the right tool: Choose a collaboration tool that is easy to learn, requires minimal setup, and complies with any company security requirements (i.e. industry regulations, privacy, GDPR, etc.).My favorite tool is muralgiven its optimized user interface, flexible permissions and timer functionality.
- Definition scope: Clearly define objectives, problem statement, and develop communication guidelines for the meeting.
- design: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; utilize a templatized framework. Think about how you want to organize and prioritize ideas as a team.
- Choose a counselor: Designate a coordinator to ensure a productive and respectful environment.
In summary, adopting virtual workshop tools can transform remote working challenges into opportunities to enhance collaboration, creativity, and engagement within distributed teams.
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