AthenePartners is all about transformation. Turns out, as I’m helping transform MURAL, MURAL is transforming me. Some of you have experienced me with MURAL and challenged me to write up my thoughts and reflections ... not in a superficial way but with depth and detail since we are all looking for ways to work better with remote and distributed teams, particularly now. So here you go...
Those of you who have worked with me over the years know I am a whiteboard person — more visuals and diagrams, less spreadsheets. I love brainstorming, scheming, and then translating to action. I love sitting in a room with a collection of amazing people wrestling a hard problem to the ground. Software can and should play a critical role in this process.
When I first met Mariano, the co- founder and CEO of MURAL, I liked his vision and the problem he was trying to solve a lot. He was persistent, and I was intrigued — though skeptical. Then I mucked around a bit. I spent time using MURAL, spent time with the leadership team, spent with customers... and I got excited. I got excited about the transformation the company was about to go through and the transformation it could catalyze, changing our expectations around how teams collaborate and ideation occurs.
I have had the privilege of working on and around transformative productivity and collaboration platforms at their early stages since, gulp, the early 90s with products like Microsoft Office 1.0 and Office 2.0 or Sharepoint 1.0 and Sharepoint 2.0.
While we have made huge strides since those days, it is so, so crazy to me that even in 2020, we haven’t fully enabled visual collaboration.
Death by a thousand meetings (or video calls)
Do you ever walk out of a meeting or a video conference call, and think, “Hey, I didn't hear from Sarah?" Or left a planning session only to realize one person talked the entire time? How about leaving a brainstorming workshop knowing you only got halfway through the ideation process before time was up, with nothing determined or decided? Have you ever finished strategic planning with your team only to struggle to create a record of all the great ideas, all scattered about on yellow stickies, scrawled on whiteboards, or flip charts? Have you ever wondered why it is "screen sharing" as opposed to "screen collaborating?"
Over my career I’ve spent years of my life in meetings, literally. All that time spent stuck in a room or video conference, held captive to a PowerPoint presentation, waiting my turn to participate or get a word in edgewise. Even when meaningful discussion happens and ideas are shared with insights captured, getting everyone on the same page still feels elusive. Getting everyone energized and running in the same direction? Super hard.
This year, the acceleration of distributed work has only made meetings harder, more painful. It’s great to see the faces of different AthenePartner company teammates on a video call grid, but it’s still hard to see what they mean. It’s hard to ensure I get everyone in the conversation. And so many meetings, endless meetings, that too often feel like words exchanged without real understanding — to say nothing of clear action. As for the excitement of working together with your team? When the best you can do is offer up a virtual “high five” or muted clap ... Where is the joy? The electricity? There’s no button for that. Good grief, it sucks! It sucks energy. It sucks in connecting. It sucks in the quality of ideas generated.
Too often, collaboration is broken.
Only, every once in a while, I do feel the electricity of killer collaboration and ideation — where everyone is collaborating, sharing ideas, playing together as a team … the output is, well, amazing.
MURAL has been an incredible catalyst to make this happen. As I become better and better at facilitating through MURAL with the leaders and teams I work with, I am transforming how I collaborate in a way that’s as fundamental to work as slides, spreadsheets, and document management. I am having a SaaS experience that is transforming my teamwork. It’s transforming how I understand and solve problems together with the people, teams, and companies I work with.
I’m not talking about “the future of work” or some newfangled way to exchange information. I’m talking about a shift in how we work together, one built on experiences and paradigms we are already familiar with: a whiteboard, a pad of paper, yellow stickies, images, diagrams, and our voices. I’m talking about the emergence of a much better way to get things done with people, no matter whether it’s in team meetings or executive-level strategic planning. It’s a way that’s as playful as it is productive.
For the thousands of companies already taking advantage of the platform, MURAL is where it all comes together. It’s where teams go to make meaning together. It’s space for teams to put imagination to work in order to unlock new ideas, pursue exciting opportunities, play, innovate, and so much more.
The MURAL way
So, how does it work? MURAL provides teams with a digital canvas for thinking out loud through stickies, pictures, words, diagrams, drawings — digital visualizations that are shared, built, and improved upon by the entire team, synchronously or asynchronously.
MURAL is the place for you to unlock your team’s collective imagination.
MURAL adds a new dimension to video calls. Frameworks, templates, and “facilitation superpowers” make meetings more engaging, productive, and fun. MURAL provides the canvas, giving imagination structure, focus, and direction. It bridges the gap between communication channels and project management systems through helping teams stay focused on the “big picture.”
And because MURAL is digital, everyone can always access it from anywhere.
“Work” and “imagination,” “meetings” and “play” — these words don’t come together often, yet in MURAL they can. Working together is easy, fun, and productive for everyone, no matter the communication styles of you or your team. (With a huge digital canvas, there’s always more space for a new idea, comment, drawing, photo, emoji, comedic relief by way of gif ... you get the idea.)
With MURAL, “Do you see what I mean?” goes from being a prayer to a process. MURAL levels the playing field ensuring everyone’s voice can be heard and understood. The MURAL way means that every meeting ends with shared meaning, with everyone on the same page moving in the same direction.
Yeah, yeah, those of you that know me, know I can get pretty exuberant about stuff so let's shift gears and talk about customers and use cases. There are MURAListas across some amazing companies like Zapier, Atlassian, IBM, Autodesk, Intuit, GitHub, SAP, Emerson, ThoughtWorks to name a few. They’ve turned to MURAL to build better products, create greater customer intimacy, accelerate sales, and ultimately, create better teams.
Lets drill in a bit on some of the use cases ...
Everyone in the product organization — so designers, PMs, scrum masters, engineers, tech leads — collaborates and iterates faster with MURAL, even when they work from different places. While doing standups, sprint planning and retrospectives or mapping users stories, creating flowcharts, engaging users for feedback, or iterating on the product roadmap, it’s easy to collaborate on customer problems. It’s easy to then harness your team’s ideas and knowledge to build products people love.
Take Zapier. Zapier is using MURAL to synthesize customer research, ensuring product features being considered keep customer feedback in focus, aligning everyone around how best to move forward:
“It’s actionable because we have a high level of fidelity… We can actually ensure that the decisions that we’re making are the right decisions, both for our company and for our users.”
💡 Richard Enlow, Senior Product Manager | Zapier
Consulting teams use MURAL to elevate consultant-to-client creative collaboration. Client engagement becomes more interactive and visual, and less chaotic. Strategy, innovation, and management consultants and expert facilitators workshop, discover, sell the vision, and create plans of action. They no longer need to wait for the onsite to engage clients when they can to go to a visual canvas and directly engage clients to make quick progress on projects.
From the CRO to the frontline, innovative sales and success teams use visual collaboration to have more engaged conversations, listen more intentionally, and follow best practices. Whether in discovery, engaging new stakeholders, mapping accounts, or onboarding workshops, MURAL promotes deeper, more active listening, sharing, and solution selling.
C-level executives, VPs, team leaders, board members, advisors, and their facilitation partners use best practices through templates and methods to innovate, strategize, plan, reflect, and build team trust in an inclusive way. The before, during, and after of strategic planning, quarterly reviews, virtual offsites, revenue kick-offs, and brand sprints happen collaboratively, visually, and in a workspace where ideas, plans, and actions live on and continue to evolve.
So, what do you do? Make meaning in your next meeting with MURAL.
At its best, technology enables everyday people to be superheroes, enabling them to automate tasks, see and translate data into insight and action, and much, much more — seamlessly, easily. MURAL is turning me into a collaboration superhero (yes, a scary thought!) and bringing teamwork to life by providing the canvas to capture everyone’s ideas in a playful, productive, and engaging way, while ensuring there is a digital record to keep us pressing forward.
This is the MURAL way and now, the AthenePartners way.
Now, do you want to really see what I mean? Explore an exciting opportunity with your team using this brainstorming template. Add some fun to your next virtual meeting with an icebreaker.
The time is now for visual collaboration, and if you want to truly see what I mean, you know what to do.
About the author
About the authors
Boardmember & CEO Partner @ MURAL. Managing partner and founder of AthenePartners. Previously Microsoft SVP and HP COO.