Originally, co.mobility would be an Open Innovation Ecosystem consisting of 40+ members and a 6-day design thinking track hosted at the Co.Station Brussels premises. When Covid-19 came knocking, we quickly identified that we needed to pivot, and pivot fast!
Whilst not being sure how long the confinement would last, we decided together with the governance board to digitize the first 2 sessions and later the entire program. What did this mean? In short: Microsoft Teams video calls, Miro as an interactive whiteboard, Sharepoint to store documents and half days instead of full days. When starting our day, we have a plenary video call with nearly 70 cross-company attendees, followed by 7 parallel workshops with 5 to 10 attendees (and a lot of meeting requests!).
For the past 3 weeks, the co.mobility ecosystem has already followed a series of 4 online design thinking workshops of half a day with more to follow. After each session we noticed an improvement based on the member’s feedback and our own experiences. Here are some of our findings.
In these digital times it’s even more important than ever to take a human approach.
You really don’t know what is happening behind someone’s computer screen. Maybe their company was hit really hard by the pandemic? Maybe they are exhausted because they have toddlers running around their home office? As a team coach or the program manager, it is important to listen to people and take their difficult context into account. Have a phone call with your attendees or send them an individual mail or message on Linkedin to check up on them. We’re all people and the fact that so many joined co.mobility during these challenging times is amazing.
The world wide web is at your fingertips
A major advantage of digital workshops is that you always have direct access to the internet. By using a digital canvas you can use so much more types of content than you would use in a physical workshop: video, photos, hyperlinks, documents, PDF, etc. In our case, we also provide a guided and integrated experience in Miro, the digital canvas we use. This helps the teams flow from one exercise to another. When used well, online workshops could be an incredible asset.
Increased frequency means increased workload
Let’s be real here, when you decide to organize online workshops than it means that there will be more work in organizing them. Your preparation nearly doubles, and so does your follow-up. You also have technical mishaps that you wouldn’t have when meeting in person. Bad wifi anyone?
But as people get more familiar with the digital tools, you see that they become more independent and have less issues.
On the side of the workshop participants, the workload changes too. On the one hand, at the start of a workshop you spend more time recapping the last session and new insights simply because you now have more sessions. On the other hand, there is more opportunity to validate the concepts, ideas and thoughts you came up with in the workshop in between sessions. Just make sure that there is enough time in between these sessions.
Interactions are different
How do you cultivate an ecosystem feeling when people cannot physically meet? This is a tricky question and we are figuring it out as we speak. What helps is organizing plenary calls with all 70 attendees either at the start or at the end of the workshop. Seeing so many people’s names show up to tune in to the same call for some reason is exciting. We are also experimenting with online speed dating tools and inspirational webinars in what we call our Inspiration Track.
All in all, our team thinks of the co.mobility as a success and we received the same feedback of our members. It is a process of continuous learning and improvement. We have still more sessions to come and are sure that we will land at 7 strong business cases at the end of June.