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The Lean UX Workshop Goes Digital: Pilot Session Summary

Written by 
Jim Kalbach
June 18, 2015

How do you take a live, interactive workshop and run it online with remote participants? That’s the question MURAL set out to understanding together with Jeff Gothelf (@jboogie on Twitter), author of Lean UX.

On Tuesday June 16, Jeff a led virtual version of his popular Lean UX workshop. Six volunteers joined our pilot session, which lasted just over 3 hours. In total we spanned nine time zones, from Sweden to Vancouver Island.

After joining the GoToMeeting conference call, we started with a round of introductions. No one knew each other prior to the event.

Jeff started the session with a presentation of the core concepts of Lean UX. He then introduced the business problem used for the rest of the workshop: increasing mobile device usage for a learning management system (LMS).

Hands-On Collaboration At A Distance

MURAL served as the main tool for the interactive activities. Normally, Jeff would use whiteboards and flipcharts to creatively solve the exercises as a group. In this virtual setting, MURAL allowed for that same type of collaborative team work.

Prior to the workshop, we created a template mural with five large regions - one for each section of the course. The image below shows the entire template with the content of the workshop after we finished.

We primarily used sticky notes to add content, which were color coded per section. In the first exercise, we also used the Dot Voting feature to prioritize the business outcomes the participants brainstormed. This helped find what the team found most important.

When creating a proto-persona in the next section, we were also able to easily add an image to MURAL through the integrated image search feature.

Build, Measure, Learn

This was an experiment. The goal was to learn about how to conduct a hands-on workshop with a distributed team. Most of our insights fell into two large categories:

1. Prepare Better With Pre-Workshop Activities

As I mentioned in my webinar on remote design from April 2015, working online allows for more async activities. For this workshop we could have taken advantage of that more.

For instance, we spent time at the beginning of the session collecting feedback to a question Jeff posed:

“What are the biggest problems you face aligning business, design and product development?”

It’s a great question, but each person could have recorded answers in advance. This would have saved time during the live session.

Additionally, there could have a been pre-workshop reading list. Or, we could have even pre-recorded Jeff’s introduction to the topic.

Your time together is valuable. Do everything you can in advance to make the most of it. In remote settings, it’s difficult to keep the energy going. Preparing upfront helps greatly.

2. Engage Participants More During The Workshop

Remote workshops lack that immediate, nonverbal feedback you get from face-to-face encounters. As a result, team interaction can be flat and energy levels low.

During the workshop, for instance, it became apparent we needed to have discussion leads -- someone to foster conversations and make sure everyone has a chance to speak. This would have avoided awkward silences and structured conversations for better outcomes.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this pilot session was a success. We brought together the people across nine time zones and made it through most of the workshop material. Participants also gave the workshop very positive scores in a post-session survey.

From the instructor’s point of view, this virtual workshop was valuable too. “This was an enlightening experiment,” Jeff said. “Recreating the dynamic of an in-person workshop is tough with distributed colleagues. The MURAL workspace functioned well for collaboration and team brainstorming. Our next experiment will focus on leveraging the tools to create more engaging interactions between the participants."

We definitely learned a ton from this session. The plan is to improve the format the next time around, which should be mid-July. Follow us on twitter (@mural) and watch this blog for more details on that.

Thank you to Jeff and everyone who participated!

About the author

About the authors

Jim Kalbach

Chief Evangelist
Jim Kalbach is a noted author, speaker, and instructor in customer experience, experience design, digital transformation, and strategy.

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