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Empowering Remote Teams To Collaborate Visually: Webinar Recap

Written by 
David Chin
February 24, 2019

Design-led organizations thrive when they instill a culture that makes it safe and normal for their teams to collaborate visually.

But culture takes time to develop and not everyone becomes a design guru overnight. Forcing teams who aren't ready or experienced into grandiose design sessions will be stressful and counter-productive.

Utilizing more frequent, shorter touchpoints instead of intense, heavy design sessions helps alleviate the pressure and cognitive burden of lengthy ideation sessions while making sure everyone's engaged and learning together.

In this webinar, Maura Hoven (Sr. Product Designer, UserTesting) shared the methods she applies to her mostly-remote team of designers, engineers and researchers so they can regularly flex their design muscles - getting everyone involved, on board, and making design a habit that fits alongside their day-to-day obligations.

wisdom slow
Principals to keep your team on track and maximize productivity, courtesy of Maura Hoven.

If you missed the webinar, we've got all of the resources below - including the custom How Might We Ideation MURAL template from Maura's presentation (check back soon for links to the other templates she shared). And make sure to check out the resources section inside the presentation mural for everything else you need to take your team's remote prototyping to the next level.


Take action with the HMW Ideation template:

HMW Ideation

Create a mural from the template and invite your teammates in to start your next HMW ideation session.

You can also learn more about how Maura uses this template with her team in her Customer Story.


Explore the presentation deck:

MURAL Webinar: Empowering Remote Teams To Collaborate Visually


Watch the video recording:

Follow along as Maura shares how she makes design a habit in her team, shows specific activities that you can use today,  and answers questions in the live Q&A.

Read below for a full transcript of the webinar:

David Chin: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the webinar, empowering remote teams to collaborate visually. My name is David Chin. I'm a Strategist and Designer at MURAL and I'll be one of your co-hosts for today. So, design lit organizations pride, they instill culture that makes it thick to collaborate visually. But culture takes time to develop and not every one becomes a design guru overnight. So this forces teams who aren't ready or experienced. creating this design session, which are often stressful and counterproductive. Maura, I'm getting some feedback from your audio. Maybe right now just mute it and then we'll switch back after this intro. Great. Alright, so, right, so culture takes time to develop not everyone becomes a design guru overnight. These teams who might not be ready and are forced into these big design sessions it's often very stressful for everyone and extremely counterproductive. So, that's why I'm excited about our co-host today. Senior Product Designer at UserTesting, Maura Hoven. Maura's figured out how to take these design methods that she was familiar with and apply them to her mostly remote team of designers, engineers, and researchers in a way that alleviates that pressure while allowing everyone on the team to be engaged and learning together. So hello Maura and thanks for joining us today. But before I hand it over to Maura, just a few details about the webinar. You should all see Q & A panel in the Zoom interface. So any questions you might have throughout the webinar just type them in there. You might also notice that you have the ability to upvote and to any of the questions that are asked. And at the end of the webinar, we've blocked off some time where Maura will address our most voted questions. We'll also have some floaters from our team answering questions in the chat as we go. So please don't be shy. Submit your questions to the Q & A panel and upvote any other questions you'd like us to answer here. So with that, it's time to hand it over to Maura. So, take it away.

Maura Hoven: And you know what, just give me one moment. I lost my screen share for a moment. Thanks guys. Just give me a second here. Tech issues, first time it's ever happened. But, yeah, thanks everybody for joining. Looks like. I'll be back up soon guys, I swear. Let's see. Alright. And, share screen. Alright, I hope we're back in business. Do you see the? We're good.

Alright, thanks guys. Thanks for bearing with me and thanks for that intro David. As David mentioned, you know, I wanna talk about collaboration among remote teams. I actually want to share today three mini-methods for remote collaboration. These are things that I've tried at UserTesting, had some success with, and really excited to share with you guys, alright. A lot of the reason I'm really passionate about this topic is because when I think back through my career it's been my teammates or customers who've really inspired my best work. So actually, if any of, any former teammates or customers are on the line, thank you so much. It really is because of you guys that I'm passionate about these methods. One particular example of that for me was a few years ago. I was working on an assistive device for blind people and I had thought that I could empathize with the pains, you know, I thought for sure this audience would favor interactions with And it was only when talking to a group of them that I realized that their experience led them to weigh something differently. They thought, when they ran into an issue with specialty hardware, that hardware became useless. And so for this audience, they wanted devices that others could easily jump in and help correct. So that actually meant that the ubiquity of a device like an iPhone made it easy for them to go and get help at any moment. And that was a big aha for me of hey, here's an audience that values something that I don't.

Correcting mistakes is exceedingly painful for them. And that's actually another principle, a design maxim I like to think about is yeah, we wanna make it hard for people to make mistakes, but we also want to make those mistakes really easy to correct. So on that same project, actually, it involved working with experts in computer vision. And again it was a moment when, basically that perspective that those teammates brought to the table added some layers of insight onto the project and onto our concepts and made our collective work better. And so the thing I wanna kind of instill is that your teammates are smarter than you in something. And so leverage it. As David mentioned, I'm at UserTesting. We're in San Francisco near the King Street Station. Lovely office right here. And I'm fortunate to be there. UserTesting is a web tool for gaining insights from customers and that has kind of instilled a culture of, you know, gaining customer insight and gaining team insight and collaboration across the company. The company really values a collaborative approach. And I'm a product designer there, as David mentioned. I'm in interdisciplinary team. And the team is actually pretty remote. We've got people in San Francisco, Mountain View, Atlanta, where we have offices. And then spread across the country, fully remote in other places. And the surprising thing for me has been that even though this team is mostly remote, it's actually been probably the most collaborative team I've ever been a part of. And a lot of that is, well yeah, and a lot of that is because the culture that's been instilled at the company. Here we are actually at a rare moment.

We, and when I say we I mean design engineering our research that are all part of the product or working on various parts of the product. We get together twice a year. So here's my team in a hack-a-thon over the summer. And, you know, really fun moment and rare opportunity for us all to work together. But, again, the reason we're able to do it is because we've got tools, methods, and a culture that enables us to be very collaborative. So some of the things we're doing today actually are, you know, design sprints. You guys can read about these, you know, they're very popular in the sign community. Typically a week-long exercise that the whole team participates in. These are wonderful. They do take a lot of commitment and depending on what else is, you know, on a team's plate are kind of a lot to ask, but still they're really wonderful activities. At UserTesting, we actually also do design spikes, which are, is spiking is a term we've kind of co-opted from engineering and the idea is we, you know, gather for a couple of hours to go deep on a problem. And then what I wanna focus on today are mini-methods, which, you know, is kind of a catch all term that I'm using to describe a 10 to 16 minute exercise that you could do with your team to facilitate creative collaboration. And ideally, you actually wanna find a time, a regular time to engage your team in these kinds of ways. So, you know, that really depends what your team looks like. For my team, you know, we do daily stand-ups and so that's an opportunity to spend a couple of minutes updating the team on some kind of design or creative activity. And then I also do weekly design sessions that are a half hour to an hour long where we can do some of the activities I'm gonna show you. But the regularity is really important and a lot of the thinking behind that is it's a lot of pressure to put on your team to come with their best ideas for kind of that one ideation session that you're running. So getting into the practice of this is gonna help people one, sort of say their ideas and their goodness and bring them to the table because they know a session is coming up and it also alleviates the pressure of getting everything, all of the good ideas on the table for that one session. So with that, the first of the three methods I wanna talk about today is the How Might We? ideation session. This one is actually most similar to what we all think of when we think of brainstorming with post-its around a whiteboard. But, we, it's really important to do it with a little bit of structure.

The thinking behind this method, it works really well when you are diverging. I'm using a framework, the Double Diamond from the, and the UK Design Counsel has some writing about this, if you wanna read more. I think a lot of people are familiar with it, but the notion here is, as you're going through phases from defining your, discovering a problem, putting definition behind it and then solving for the problem, the problem that you set out to, you know, involves this process of converging and diverging. And you really wanna do the methods at the right time in the process you can kind of get the most mileage and, you know, you're being effective with your time. The How Might We? is a good one when you're, again, when you're diverging. And what you'll need for this is a MURAL board, an agenda and requirements, a team, and a group videochat tool. And I'm assuming, you know, you have a lot of remote people when I'm thinking of these methods. And the process is that you're gonna spend about five minutes doing discussion Q & A and this is part of, kind of laying that groundwork. And then you're gonna do a silent brainstorm for about 10 minutes. You can adjust these times a little bit depending on your group size and comfort with the different steps. Then you want the team within MURAL to do some silent clustering and naming and only then will you do a 10 minute discussion and then a five minute kind of vote on that. As well as a definition of next steps. And a couple of things you'll see there that, you know, you might've noticed. A couple of the steps involved silent, so you're silently ideating and you're silently clustering. And that's kind of, this is really different from what people think of when they're normally thinking of brainstorming. But the idea here is really important. You actually wanna get, prevent biases of, you know, the first person speaking or the loudest person in the room setting the tone for all of the ideas. And so, so what, you know the reason for that agenda is you're kind of instilling this principle of allowing the team to think alone and then think together. And actually there's some good writing about this concept by Daniel Stillman from The Conversation Factory. I had taken a facilitation workshop of his last fall and he's got a great way of describing this philosophy behind how you layout a workshop agenda.

And so there is a MURAL template. It's available at the website here. But the idea is you wanna have a space where people can think alone, so they can fill out, type in their ideas on the different post-its and then when they move to the silent sort, they, the whole team looks at everyone's post-its, reviews them silently and moves them over to concept buckets where they kind of have to ad-hoc, negotiate, and move things around and figure out what kind of buckets things might belong in. From there, you wanna have the little bit of that team discussion as well as do a vote. And the vote is intended to kind of sense temperature and see where there's a lot of energy and then you can talk a little bit more about those areas. All of the voting I'm mentioning throughout all of these activities is not like a democratic political voting process. It doesn't necessarily mean that that thing wins, but you wanna kind of get a sense of where the energy is. And, you know, with that activity then you're gonna go away with the sense of hey, here's a cluster, here's an area the team's really excited about and that'll help you when you're in that diverging phase to figure out like at some point we're gonna converge, where is there energy? Where might we dedicate a few more resources to figure out how to move forward? But with that, I think a couple of things I wanna say, especially with this method is it is important to be flexible. And so you're demanding full participation of your team, but you wanna make sure that you have gotten input on the timing, the scheduling, the team knows the agenda in advance so that your request for participation can be met with enthusiasm. And with that, yeah, go forth and be creative. I think this method is one of the most open-ended of any of them and so it allows for a lot of creativity.

David Chin: Maura, sorry to interrupt, But we need to demand additional participation from you and we seem to have lost your video. So we just see the screenshot

Maura Hoven: Ahh, actually David, I wasn't sure if this was intentional or not, so, when I start video it says I cannot start video because the host has stopped it.

David Chin: Ahh, let's try this thing here. Give it a shot now.

Maura Hoven: Okay. You guys were missing my enthusiastic hand motions about being creative, anyways. Now we're ready.

So for the next one, the flow jam. This, I think, is one of my, I won't think, I know this is hands down my favorite method. And this is a method that you can use when you're dealing with a user experience that has a ton of complexity and a lot of requirements behind it. The background here is actually the UserTesting tester applicant flow, which had, you know, like 42 steps or something in it and it had a lot of requirements behind it and so this was an activity I had done with the team to think of ways we could kind of reinvent the applicant flow process. And, it's a really good method when you are, you know, converging and so you're trying to get closer to a product definition, you know, you likely have a lot of, you know, a set of requirements in mind and you, you know, it's really important at that phase that you're incorporating all of those in the work you're doing. What you'll need for this one is actually one Master MURAL board that you will control and then a private MURAL board for each of the team members that're involved in this. In my case, I did this exercise with about 18 members. You wanna have the agenda and requirements. You want to have that team ready and you want them to already be prepped with the goals of the exercise and with the background information you're laying out.

Again, assuming there's a lot of complexity, you know, with the flow you might be ideating around, you know, you wanna be sure everyone knows what needs to be included and why. And then finally that group videochat tool. So what this process looks like, you've laid the foundation, I'm going to reiterate this again and again. Really important with this activity. And then you're gonna have the team individually develop a UX flow in MURAL. I'll talk a little more about that. Then you're consolidate all of those individual flows into a Master MURAL and then you're gonna have the team review all of them individually and vote on areas that achieve your different requirements in interesting ways and then you're gonna discuss and review. And the most important step and actually the hairiest step is you want to then synthesize based on, you know, the interesting ways of achieving the different requirements. You wanna synthesize those things into a single hero flow and everyone needs to be kind of onboard with the idea that you're leaving this exercise with a single flow at the end of the day. So, again, reiterating, define your guardrails. So, this is a tool you're using when there's a lot of complexity. You want the team to really know what, you know, what are requirements that're musts, what are nice to haves and what the objective is. In my case, I was actually trying to get the team to narrow down a flow that had about 40 some steps and so the guardrails I laid in place were to give the team a set of 10 boxes that were representing each of the steps that we were gonna have in our future flow. You can adjust that depending on the, you know, you're estimate of what works with the problem you're trying to solve.

As well as this, this is the individual MURAL with a cheat sheet of the different requirements that are needed to achieve, that need to be met by the time the flow is completed. So each person spent a little bit of time, this is building on that think alone principle, looking at this and typing in what they think their flow would be and then you as kind of the facilitator at the, you know, give the team a little bit of a break and then consolidate all of those flows into a single Master MURAL and then share that Master MURAL with the team. From there, you wanna give the team a chance to read through everyone's flow and start voting like tagging or marking things that are interesting to them. So you can, you know, I think in this case I gave everyone 20 votes and the idea was, you know, looking at the requirements we had, mark down things that are interesting for each of the requirements. So the expectation was that the votes would be spread across the different requirements we had. And then the sticky activity was, you know, we had some discussion over the kind of hot areas and we moved them into a single flow that, you know, incorporated elements from a couple of the different flows and the team was startin' to feel really good about. And, you know, this was really a good activity, a very rewarding activity in that we left with something very tangible and something that actually myself as the designer could go away and leverage and kind of bring a little more color and detail to. So reiterating again, it's that goal, that agenda with a clear goal that's gonna help you reach the ending point here.

David Chin: Alright Maura, one last adjustment. Is it possible to try and moving, adjusting the mic a little bit, like moving it down slightly maybe towards your lower. That should be better. Alright, thanks.

Maura Hoven: I hope so, sorry guys. Okay, the last method I wanna share is what I'm calling a Hierarchy Slam. This is a really fun one and it's actually a great way of engaging both customers and your teammates. And you can really do it at any point in the design process. What you'll need is a MURAL board for each participant. Again, that agenda, group videochat tool, and a teammate or customer. And in my case I actually did this activity using the UserTesting platform because I wanted to do a test where I could evaluate what UserTesting testers valued in the UserTesting dashboard. So that's meta here. What you wanna do is recruit your participants, have them go through an exercise where they define the hierarchy on the prototype or screenshot that you're sharing with them. And then you wanna review and discuss it with them where you're asking them why and how and what their thinking is behind the ranking they're doing. Some of the information there is actually even more important than the raw numbers of what people rate as their number one, you know, element on a page. And then consolidate it if it makes sense. Capture any trends, you know, and capture any trends and themes and that's what you will have to figure out with the team. So, here's actually a, you know the MURAL template I had been using. This is a screenshot of the UserTesting dashboard. It, you know, kind of hadn't been touched in a little while and we wanted to understand, you know, what's working, what's not. You know, what are testers interested in. And so I had them drag these numbers, so kind of the dark number one for hot items and a lighter number 10 for less important items to the screen and that helped spark a discussion on which elements in this page were most important to them. And this is what, what that actually looked like. So again I had done this in UserTesting, which is kind of, I mean shameless plug, you guys know I work there, but an easy way of getting feedback from a customer and then you can kind of see the why's behind why new people are rating things a certain way. So with that, those are the three methods. We've got the How Might We? ideation, we got the flow jam, and the Hierarchy Slam. And a couple of things I just wanna drive home and leave you guys with. One is to find your guardrails. Really, really important in order to get the results you need. And a lot of people say the phrase creativity loves constraints. I, you know, I like that one. I think it's helpful and, you know, defining guardrails is gonna help your team be more creative. Even the folks that may not consider themselves creative. They can think within the boxes you lay out for them. Setting an agenda with a clear goal is gonna help people assess whether they can commit to your activity and keep things moving ahead. Thinking alone, thinking together is that driving principle behind why you do some silent work and then you review it together. And really overall for these things you wanna be flexible. You know, you want, when you're demanding participation you wanna make sure it works everyone's schedule, particularly sticking when you're dealing with multiple time zones because that lag after lunch is occurs at a different time for everyone, you know, when you're especially spread across the country and even more if you're dealing internationally. And I love just always keep in your mind your customers value things that you don't. Your teammates are smarter than you. And you're doing all of this stuff because you can go faster alone, but you can go further together. So with that any questions?

David chin: Alright, amazing. Thank you so much for sharing more and thank you all for being active in the chats and in the Q and A. Maura can we, let's a just adjust that, the audio a little bit the mic so we can get it perfect for the Q and A. We solved the first issue by moving the mic down, but then the volume was really low so perhaps we can keep it positioned in the same place and you could just try to project a little bit.

And then everybody at home watching or wherever you might be just make sure your volume is nice and high and again if you have any issues just let us know in the chats. But, for now, okay great. It looks like everybody is saying that it's working well. Alright, we've got plenty of time for the Q and A. So, let's take a look at what has been uploaded. Alright.

Okay, are there methods to facilitate familiarity in team building? So I guess less about solving like a specific design issue for a client or something, but more about team alignment.

Maura Hoven: The team culture and getting the team, okay yeah. Yeah there are. I think, so I'm gonna read between the lines, are there, if someone who needs methods to kind of help with team alignment. If it's coming from the team not having enough, like, there's a framework sometimes people use to describe teams, you now, they're forming, storming, norming around team culture. And sometimes you do have to do some things to try to get the team on that path more quickly. One activity that you could to is to try to find a regular time for your team to interact. Maybe it's a lunch and this can be done over Zoom. Actually, the team I'm on does a half hour Friday afternoon kind of happy hour and it's been really helpful as a way of understanding what's on everyone on the team's mind and, you know, sometimes we're not able to do it, but it's helped us build those relationships and especially on a remote team that's something that's particularly hard. Is that the nature of the question though around forming the team? Anyway, it, yeah.

David Chin: Sorry, I was, I think that's in the same ballpark as kind of an open, like a, not a detailed question, but it was the most

Maura Hoven: The top one, yeah, yeah. So then other things kind of on that theme and you can do some Googling around facilitation methods. I mentioned during my presentation a website called The Conversation Factory and that's run by someone who teaches facilitation workshops and has a lot of really good advice around techniques and methods that can help kind of bring the team along. I do think the notion of setting an agenda and guardrails in place does tend to help people move toward agreement because the conversation becomes not what are we gonna do in general for our project. It's much smaller. It's what are we gonna do today to just hit on this small objective and here we are meeting for an hour. And so it's sort of takes what could seem like a high stakes decision or a high stakes project and brings it back to a level that's much more digestible and much easier for people to, you know, agree upon.

David Chin: Yeah and I think, to add to that, just, this overall transparency, well transparency overall within your teams, but setting expectations and being very upfront about that just sounds like a general principle kind of supports all of these things that you're talking about.

Maura Hoven: Yeah, yeah generally. And I think the other thing that can help, if you are struggling to get team alignment is try to think of a couple of activities that you can do, you know, it's just more opportunities to be together, have conversations together, and hopefully have come on a journey together and be reaching some of the same conclusions. The other thing that could be going on if for one, alignment is a struggle, is a lot of times with these interdisciplinary teams, everyone has a different window into the problems that the business is facing. You know, some people are most of the day heads down in their computer, other people have more window into what various executives at the company are thinking or strategic direction the company wants to go. And so there can be a lot of legwork that needs to happen to sort of communicate and relay all of that background to the team to make sure that those folks who don't have the window into the information that you have can have it enough so that they can actively participate. Sometimes when people disagree it's because they may not have the background or the insight that you do.

David Chin: Great, thank you. Alright, next one. Can you share some icebreakers and engagement activities while collaborating with remote teams?

Maura Hoven: Yeah, oh man. So actually a couple that come to mind, and we do, so we do these at UserTesting. I haven't done them as much with the activities I've shared with you today, but we, so whenever there's a new hire, actually, at UserTesting, they, you know, meet the product and engineering team and we usually ask them, you know like, what's your favorite cereal? Or if, there was one that was really fun, which was if you were, if there was a movie made about you, what genre of movie would it be? What might the title of the movie be? And so, I think sometimes those can be, you know, there kind of standard, you know, you can Google icebreakers and find some different ideas here, but those are fun and lightweight. Don't require a lot of participation to jump into. I think another we've used is, you know, what's your guilty pleasure? If you wanna, like, really get people energized, depending on the time of day it is, one that I have used before that has worked really well is like, I don't know what this is called. You basically sit around a room with your team and it's kind of a version of musical chairs where one person doesn't have a seat and they have to say something like they might say I like to run. And everyone who also likes to run then has to get up and cross the room and find a new seat and the person left standing then has to say something else. You know, I love coffee or I hate coffee. And it can, it gets kind of fun and you can do that for a couple of minutes to, you know, it's a good one if you're doing something after lunch, to, you know, get people to kinda shake out and be ready to sit down again. Yeah, that's.

David Chin: That sounds like a fun one. I'm wondering what the remote version of that might look like?

Maura Hoven: Yeah, that's a great point. The, let's see.

David Chin: And maybe we don't have to think about it right now, but just ah

Maura Hoven: Oh there is a way, there is a way. Let's see. I think actually you can do something with like it, well, you might have to kinda. Let's see, can you. You might have to use, if you're using Zoom, like some Zoom tools where, you know, the last person to post in the chat is the one who is left out or a lot of times I have found that if a couple people are remote it can be easier to have everyone doing the activity remote because then you can do activities in a chat or things that, you know, become difficult if you've got like a half and half group. So sometimes here, even when there are a couple of people in office, I will actually have even the people who are here in office still engage with Zoom and MURAL in the same way that they would if they were remote. And so actually, at that, like really great point to keep in mind when you've got a mixed team.

David Chin: Makes sense, makes sense. Alright, so for this one, do you have any examples you can share of how you have used of, do you have any examples you can share of how you've used MURAL to synthesize design research? And perhaps I'm thinking if you have something in mind that is not ready to share right now, we can link that in the follow-up, in the recap, so we can share that later. But, yeah, the question, do you have any examples you can share of how you, or how you've used MURAL to synthesize design research?

Maura Hoven: To synthesize design research. Well, in some ways I'm actually trying to think now of what some of the UX researchers that I've worked with or on other teams at UserTesting have been doing. I, myself, have not generally done a lot of design research synthesis within MURAL. The closest examples are synthesizing kind of activities in a session done as I kind of showed in some of the previous methods. Let's see. I think, you know, I think especially when you're thinking of just some different frameworks, you might use to organize thinking, one that comes to mind is, let's see, I've done sometimes work where I'm gathering information about how someone does a process and, you know, I wanna know kind of the tools they're using, the activities they're doing, problems they're having, and you might have like a bunch of columns of things that you captured during your research and I think laying out a MURAL in that way to help the team that was doing that research come together and all kind of chime in and type what they're hearing could work really well. Thinking of past environments that I've been in to, I think you can, you know, in a focus group type setting, whether it's happening through a remote tool like UserTesting or an in person focus group you can have the different members of the team be populating insights as they're hearing them into a MURAL and then you can do some clustering and sorting activities that way. That's about it off the cuff. This admittedly is not as much of a area of expertise for me.

David Chin: Cool, yeah. I'm sure we have, we have some examples and we do this all the time internally here at MURAL. But I guess one thing that I'm thinking of is for collecting and synthesizing secondary research I guess you, dropping in assets and links turns the MURAL into like a great place where you can just collect all of the, all of you're secondary research and visualize it and see these buckets and group them accordingly and, I don't know, for me, just being able to see all your like research sources and information in one place is super helpful, but perhaps we can send something in the follow-up. Something more tangible. Alright, let's move on to the next one. It's kind of a broad question, but the people, you know, they want the answer. What processes do you use for collaboration?

Maura Hoven: Well, How Might We? ideation, flow jams. Let's see, what processes do I use for collaboration? Well, I think the principles I try to think about are, you know, regular touchpoints and that's really about getting the team comfortable and familiar with creative thinking and with doing activities like the ones I was just sharing. Other processes for collaboration. I think, I actually think that, that one of the strengths of doing smaller, shorter sessions is it makes it easier to fit these like collaborative moments into your day. It can be hard to take a half day or a week to do sort of collaborative activities. So if you can think of small, lightweight moments to get feedback that that just helps the team get used to doing these things regularly. Yeah. Other, I'm trying to think if there are other top level ways or processes for collaboration. I think. Excuse me, I'm gonna mute it. I do think that if the team is new to collaboration, the How Might We? ideation is sort of the easiest to start doing. And then once the team has had more practice working together I think it then it becomes easier to do some of the more complex methods, like say that flow jam.

David Chin: Yeah that, How Might We? ideation mini-method is pretty great. So if anybody missed that part of the webinar that the early part of the presentation, Maura shared one of the exercises that she really developed this template for for getting the team together to share in these brainstorming activities. And we also have that template available that you can get right now in our user store with Maura, which you can find on the site and the link should be floating around in the chat and we'll make sure to get that to you. Alright, so here's a nice juicy one from Tyler. Okay, so, you know it's, I've taken note to man participation. Quite often I'm facilitating design sessions where I'm far and away the least experienced person in the room. What do you think are some good techniques for effectively engaging more senior leaders, those who are reluctant to participate?

Maura Hoven: Yeah, that's a hard, actually that happens a lot and in a way that means you are facilitating probably some really great sessions because you're facilitating with a team of people who maybe know more than you. They have insight into the space that might not. But, tools and methods to help with engagement among kind of that audience, that executive type audience. That is really tricky. One thing you can do is layout some ground rules in advance. And I've been in workshops where this has been done of hey, this is our agenda. Here are the break times. You can ask the team if they're able to, you know, commit if the schedule looks good before you kind of start the day or start your activity. And the, I think, for an audience that needs to kind of be looking at their phone or checking their computer, you can say, hey you can do it, but I kindly ask that you leave the room and come back. And so you can make it really clear that it's not okay for you to be distracted when you're in the session, but you can leave if you want, you know. Leave and come back and that's fine. I've been, you know, I think there are different schools of though on this. Some people say like absolutely not. You have to be here and you cannot leave. I think that doesn't make for a good relationships in terms of the kind of regular collaboration that I think most people in companies where you're working on teams want to be doing. So really my best answer to helping work with this audience is to kinda lay the ground rules, you know, no phones, no computers during the session. But hey, there's a table right outside the door and a chair, you can kinda sit there if you need a break. Or otherwise we're gonna have a break at this time, this time, and this time so people can kind of plan accordingly.

David Chin: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think it's in these moments where you're dealing with these kind of sticky maybe upper level management or whatever you wanna call it. When you're facilitating that design session, own it. And, you know, I guess try, it's easy to say, but, you now, forget about being timid. Forget about kind of like this work chart hierarchy type of thing and embrace that moment and, you know, hopefully that energy and that expertise that you're showing will will say something to these stakeholders also.

Maura Hoven: Yeah. You know, yeah definitely you wanna own it. You are the facilitator. And actually even if it's an executive audience and you're not one of them, you come to the table armed with a lot of knowledge about facilitation and ideation tools and so you actually have something that they need your help with. So just like lean into that and remember that I think, you know, if you are talking about sort of longer standing relationships, you can always approach someone one-on-one after the session and say hey, is there someone on your team who would be a good person to attend for this. It doesn't have to be you. I think sometimes when there's these big company leadership type offsites, if someone doesn't wanna be there, you don't necessarily have to have them there, unless you do, that's, you know, something that can happen to. But there's no reasons, you know, a senior manager reporting into a director couldn't be there because the director's too busy. So, I think that's where you wanna be a little bit flexible and make sure you get the representative voices you need. But, you know, if someone just cannot take that time out of their day, work with them.

David Chin: Great. Alright, moving on. How do you address different levels of expertise in using MURAL between your participants? So I think, it's like about when, perhaps you have someone who, I guess.

Maura Hoven: Never did it before and yeah, yeah. Well actually, so MURAL rolled out a couple of features recently that I think help soft of newbie proof the platform just a little bit. One of them is in the ability to lock elements, but actually in my experience, I have not found the learning curve to be particularly high. I was using MURAL to send, for the Hierarchy Slam, to send test participants from the UserTesting platform who had never seen MURAL before and never done an activity like that before with instruction to kind of drag and drop these elements around. And nobody struggled with it. So I think, that's a relatively simple task, but what I had done was I locked the prototype, I locked the header, and I only made moveable the elements that I wanted you to move. So I think when you're using a tool for any sort of brainstorm session there are multiple people working within a MURAL, it can be helpful to like lock down elements. Just prevent, you know, mistakes from happening a little bit. You can always lay a little bit of a like tutorial down at the beginning. You know, hey, we're gonna do this and here's how you drag in a new sticky. Go to the site here and pull it over. The other is I try to, so some people are more comfortable creating their own boxes, others wanna fill in boxes that exist. I think it's fair to allow for both. So we, you know, that's again a moment when I would say be flexible, you know. I think as designers, we like having these really pretty nice templates that all line up. I don't care if by the end the MURAL looks wild with all of these boxes of different sizes and things going on as long as we're getting the insight and getting the ideas that we need.

David Chin: Yeah and I think, giving pre-work may be like less demanding pre-work to everybody before a meeting or before a workshop. A light activity that they can kind of dabble with on their own and get familiar with is really helpful so they come in with some experience. You don't have to always spend time in the beginning of your session or your workshop doing that like kind of icebreaker, almost onboarding activity. Although there's still importance and I think, you know, it's important, well to have those icebreakers. But also, yeah, regarding the icebreaker activities, having something short and light and like not demanding or stressful. And we talked about icebreakers earlier, but doing something. Something fun that we did recently is we had to sketch our neighbor. So in the, we have the Zoom chat open and there's eight of us and so we just take the person to the right or left of us and we have the little space in the MURAL and just take a few minutes to, you know, sketch that person to the best of the ability. And it's really fun, light thing and you can add other elements to dress it up, but. Yeah, like maybe a mini activity that's not, you're not expecting a specific outcome. Yeah that's one way to get new folks engaged. Alright, let's see.

Maura Hoven: Add to that, David, that, you know, think about adjusting your activity for the expertise in the room, you know, if you think your audience is gonnabe fumbling around and have difficulty with the tool, you know, maybe be more okay with sort of simple boxes of text. And if the audience has more expertise, you know, then go in deeper and kinda use some of the other tools.

David Chin: Yeah, definitely. So like adjusting the fidelity of the activity almost.

Maura Hoven: Yeah.

David Chin: Great. Alright, so we have a few more minutes, maybe we can kinda cruise through a couple more, well. But, the questions seem little deep, so we'll do our best. Alright, what sort of reporting out or a closing a loop process do you recommend following, after completing a group design exercise?

Maura Hoven: Yeah, okay, so that's an important one and you actually wanna be sure that you've left the group exercise with people already having a good sense of this is what we completed. You know, we set out to define a flow and we did that. We have this flow here and layout with the team what the next step is. Whether it be you taking that on to refine it, someone else, and then, I think it's helpful in the day of to summarize the session and just send a quick e-mail or a slack about, hey thanks everyone, you know, we're really proud of this recap what you did. And, you know, kind of keep it fresh that you guys accomplished something. It's kind of a great think actually when you get the team together whether it's 20 minutes or an hour and you achieve a goal. You wanna kinda celebrate that a little bit. So it's a good moment to kind of brag. Depending on what sort of things your company has in place, whether it be iteration reviews, which is something we do at UserTesting, but, you know, bi-weekly share outs, quarterly share outs, those sorts of things. You know, communicate up and tell your manager. Like, hey we did this great activity. This happened and this was the result and get their help in kinda socializing and sharing that these are things you're doing with success with your team. If there is a lot of follow on work, you know, be sure to kind of keep that communication channel open and so this kind of goes back to trying to find a regular design time, is what I call it with my team. But find a regular moment where you can interact, and part of what you want to do then is refresh on, hey, here's what we did last time, you know, this is how, what we've done since and this is what we're gonna do today. And so, like kinda keep going back and refreshing and reiterating how far you've come, you know, what you accomplished, and how you're gonna take it forward.

David Chin: Great. Alright, we have maybe it's time for a few more. Okay, how do you get to the design challenge you start with in the How Might We? session?

Maura Hoven: Yeah, oh that's a good one. So actually, it involves pre-work. I think depending on how your team is structured, in my case the How Might We? question was formulated in advance and it was something that myself and my product manager, Ethan, worked together to come up with a couple of How Might We? questions and then we shared them in one of team stand ups of hey we've got this upcoming activity. We wanna do a ideation session around this and we wanted to do it around a general, there was a general goal we had in mind or a general kind of result we were trying to achieve. And so we had a few questions around, you know, how we might do that and we got some team input actually on that How Might We? question. That was a case it really didn't matter which one we did first. We were gonna be doing an exercise like this in a couple of areas. So, you know, you can definitely team input or work with a small team. I do think you wanna have shown the team that prompt before you walk into the session, you know, so they can kind of have a chance to think about it. Ask any questions or do any background research on their own before they come to your session.

David Chin: Great, alright. Last one. Alright, from

Maura Hoven: Man you guys, tough questions, okay.

David Chin: It's been amazing. Alright, do you find using MURAL during an in person working session, do you find this effective? This person notes I like using a whiteboard and sticky notes when working in person, but we always run into the issue of trying to take pictures of everything before we're done so we don't lose everything. And before, Maura, may be you dive into this, I want to mention that this idea of taking photos of the whiteboards, common, common issue. We have a solution. So our product guys, they're amazing. They've been working on a new addition to MURAL, which is MURAL scan. And you can go to to get on the list and basically it's a from within your, within a MURAL you can just activate the scan option and you can scan a whiteboards and it will bring in the information, bring in the sticky notes as individual elements that then you can continue using in MURAL just like any other sticky note that you would add from within the product already. So and we'll send a link, but. Alright we have a few more minutes, so Maura if you wanna just say it again, using MURAL during an in person session, what do ya think?

Maura Hoven: Yeah, I think it's absolutely helpful in an in person session, especially when actually you might have a lot of reference material. David actually mentioned earlier wanting to put in links and images and things and if that's the basis for your discussion it can be really great to be able to revisit the board as it stands, you know, one week later or whenever you're kind of cadence is. I've done, I've used MURAL in person when, also when I wanna actually review some, depending on the stage of the design, but design mock-ups cuz it can be a great way to kind of demonstrate that, hey, I'm hearing you. I've captured your thought. We're talking together right here. And, you know, the team knows that you've heard them.

David Chin: Great. Alright, so we're just about out of time. Maura, if you have any last words or if there is anything else you wanna share?

Maura Hoven: Boy, you know what? I think my last thing is just all of these activities, you know, yeah, again, all of these activities are in this service kind of this mantra of faster alone, further together. And then also I wanna share that UserTesting, really great culture, I'm very happy, is hiring in quite a few roles in San Francisco and Atlanta. So go to, about-us, jobs. And please apply. But yeah, David, thank you so much for having me. This has been a pleasure and good discussion. Thank you all for the questions.

David Chin: Yeah, this has been amazing. Everyone thank you for your participation. Maura, of course, thank you so much. It's been one of the most active webinars. The Q and A panel was goin' crazy. The chat was active the entire time. It's been amazing. Folks, we'll follow-up within the next few days with the recap, including the video replay and presentation MURAL. And we've got a ton of unanswered questions, so perhaps we'll figure out a way that we can get those answered and share those with you guys. But for now, thank you all. Maura, again, thank you so much.

Maura Hoven: Thank you and, actually, thank you to the participants. I didn't have the chat open because I didn't want to be distracted. But, I love seeing others answering these questions too. It's great to see what works in everyone else's organization. It's a

David Chin: It's amazing. Alright, until next time folks, thank you. Have a great day.

About the author

About the authors

David Chin

Creative Lead
Creative Lead at MURAL // Moving beyond the pixels to connect intuition, reason, and opportunity.