As the business world adapts to an era of hybrid work, companies are learning how to effectively foster collaboration across remote and in-office teams. To operate effectively in this new reality, teams must develop creative ways to bring new thinking to life when colleagues are spread across the country, or even the world. Fostering that collaboration is critical to ensuring firms can act in a nimble fashion, able to seize new opportunities and stave off potential threats as they arise.
Metis Strategy frequently uses design sprints as a way to foster collaboration and idea generation among teams. Traditionally, design sprints occur in person. Several people get together in the same conference space to map customer journeys, illustrate design concepts, and paste Post-It notes around a large whiteboard to generate new ideas. In a remote or hybrid setting, however, not everyone is physically in the conference room, making it tougher to quickly sketch a concept or add an idea to the board.
The Metis Strategy team has found that effectively conducting a remote design sprint requires a different approach and a new set of skills to ensure the exercise runs smoothly. For a recent client engagement, our team built and facilitated a five-day, fully remote design sprint. We brought together employees from across the US to develop a tangible solution to a challenge facing the team. Each day was designed to get the team thinking creatively and engaging with the problem at hand, including understanding the challenge, deciding on long-term goals, and mapping user experience, and prototyping a solution that could be tested on a target audience. In this instance, virtual whiteboarding tools (we used Miro) became a critical for facilitating a successful sprint.
Below are a few takeaways from our experience that can help teams that are conducting their own remote or hybrid design sprints:
- Focus on facilitators. We recommend each remote or hybrid design sprint includes at least two facilitators. The primary facilitator is responsible for running the sprint while the secondary facilitator operates the virtual whiteboard and answers any technology-related questions. The second facilitator may also help the team highlight critical ideas from the conversation, group ideas into future discussion topics, and troubleshoot other challenges that may arise during the session.
- Become an expert in virtual whiteboarding tools: In a remote design sprint, a well-run virtual whiteboard is critical. No matter which tool a team decides to use, facilitators should be fluent with the technology, including knowing some shortcuts and best practices that can help the session run more smoothly. That in-depth knowledge also allows facilitators to quickly address any technical challenges that may arise during the session while ensuring the core team can remain focused and engaged in the task at hand.
- Double down on organization and documentation. As facilitators, it is important to keep track of the ideas the team generates throughout the design sprint process. Often, points made early in the sprint become critical pieces of information during future exercises. This is one area where virtual tools have a slight edge over their physical counterparts. Digital whiteboards allow facilitators to easily manage, sort, and store idea lists, mind maps and virtual Post-It notes from any point in the design sprint, making it easier for teams to reference and build upon earlier work. Virtual whiteboards also allow each member of the team to have a copy of the materials that they can reference down the road.
While a remote design sprint doesn’t deliver the same experience as an in-person session might, we found it to be an effective framework for collaboration and idea generation. As hybrid work takes hold at many companies, we expect sprint facilitators and their teams to be increasingly fluent with virtual whiteboarding tools as they manage collaboration across virtual and in-person settings.