Many of us have postponed typically face-to-face co-creation sessions to when “normal” resumes. Fortunately, creativity does not need to be put on hold. Since virtual is likely to be the new normal for a while, here are some tips to make your online co-creation sessions more productive and enjoyable.
Break down your agenda into bite-size sessions: WFH is not what it was dreamed to be. Can you sustain your enthusiasm in a video call for hours in a row while the cat, the kids and Facebook are clamoring for attention? Don’t cram your agenda over 2 straight days like you would in a F2F workshop. Set-up multiple sessions according to deliverables and mindsets required. Whether it is to get consensus on an objective, sharing learnings, using different lenses to ideate or shortlisting ideas, each session should be self-contained and last no more than 60 mins, with clear deliverables.
Make productive use of “in-between” time: Use your time apart to create in-between tasks or homework that people will be excited to do. Analytical tasks – where more quiet, un-influenced time is needed – are best suited for such “offline” activity. For example, these could be about reviewing ideas generated. You could make it more interesting by giving reviewers titles such as “VP of Consumer Happiness” or “VP of Keeping Margins Healthy” and task them to pitch their favourite ideas to the audience.
Keep ideation for real-time connection: Leaving actual ideation as an individual “in-between sessions” activity could lead to poor quality of output as participants will de-prioritize it in their busy schedule, and it will be done without proper guidance and stimuli. While connected, get participants to brainstorm individually then share their ideas, using virtual post-its, boards or a wiki. New ideas will be sparked as participants present. As always, do not rush to a conclusion too early and give participants enough time to explore possibilities.
Watch out for the loss of soft cues: It is harder to facilitate a group when you can’t see body language. You need to tease out disagreements, whether in a group setting or through back channels. To promote engagement and gauge sentiment, you could actively promote the use of emojis or reactions in the chat section or put up polls on a regular basis.
The content should be the star, not the technology: From Zoom to Meet to Skype, there are enough platforms to choose from to conduct your sessions. While we like the combination of Microsoft Teams and ideation apps like StormBoard or Mural, whatever platform you choose should be intuitive enough for participants to focus on the task at hand as opposed to learning how to navigate a 3D avatar. Beware of time spent on the learning curve and don’t trade-off must-have functionalities for nice-to have bells & whistles. While the experience is important, the session will be judged on the results it delivered not the fun you had.