Many weeks ago I saw the first social media post from someone being “suddenly remote” due to COVID-19 and wondering what tools they should use for online collaboration. This seemed like a design thinking challenge emerging. An opportunity to put the steps of design thinking into practice: empathy, define, ideate, prototype and test. Since then, I’ve seen many people that I learn from about working and innovating virtually post some of their favorite tools to use. These were ideas asking to be synthesized. We took this on as a design thinking project and used a Miro online whiteboard.
With this tool, we visualized screenshots of the top remote tool lists that over 30 innovative professionals shared on one big digital whiteboard. We then could more easily see themes and zero-in on 14 of the tools that came up again and again.  These are software tools you can use to communicate, collaborate, & innovate virtually. Zoom was the tool I saw recommended most often. Here’s the synthesized list. Please share the resource collection with those who are new to working remote.

New Learning & Development

I learned a lot from working to apply design thinking for myself in response to the new COVID-19 challenges. New problems and opportunities were coming to the surface weekly. Because of the uncertainty and rapid change happening, this could be the time to focus on the basics and fundamentals. These include things like learning something new, developing a specific newly emerging skill (like leading or creative problem-solving in a VUCA world), creating something of value for others, or applying your work in new virtual, online, remote ways. I’m starting with learning a software from the top tools list above that I’ve never used before…and then teaching it to others.

Many are trying to figure out new ways of communicating and facilitating their work with in-person events and conferences being canceled. Professionals have a sudden need to do their work remotely. Teachers have a new requirement to teach their course online…for the first time! Leaders have to facilitate meetings and sessions virtually. People have experienced cancellations and now have the open time they might be able to fill with learning or creating. We are working on being of help with many of these things. Read on for some of the top resources for our specific audience of design thinkers and facilitators/trainers:

Online Learning & Teaching

Learn a New Software

For my own learning and development in this design thinking training and facilitation area, I’m working on learning new software designed for remote design thinking through applying them for real projects. These include running end-to-end design thinking projects on Sprintbase and prototyping how to facilitate innovative workshops with a real-time collaborative whiteboarding tool like Miro.

Teach with an Online Course

If you’ve got open time and you can’t come into an office…it could be time to learn – online and in a structured way. If you really want to learn and develop, don’t just read, consume, or listen. Apply by doing or create something for a real purpose. Ultimately, teach something…and why not learn how to do that virtually by building your own online workshop. You could use this Teachable online course creator platform for that. It was just named by Fast Company as #1 for most innovative education companies of 2020.  We use them for our online workshops at Alternatively, another top online course builder platform is Thinkific.

This past month was quite a month and it looks like the upcoming months will be too. What else can you do for your own learning and development? Keep learning. For me, these are times to learn the needed next thing and create something to help others learn and do. Spring can be grow time. When approaching this special time we are in with design thinking you might begin with empathy for yourself and others. Through observing and listening you might come across an important challenge to work on. In addition to the need to now just work remotely from home, I’ve seen and heard from our network a need to learn how to facilitate design thinking or more innovative workshops virtually. We’ve been coaching people to do this for a number of years through our online train-the-trainer program. It’s more relevant than ever now…and immediately.

Innovative Design Thinking & Doing

It’s a great time to learn design thinking by doing it…and with a team. Here is a guide for those who want to innovate and engage in design thinking sessions online, remotely, and virtually with teams. This is one of the more popular pieces of content we created in collaboration with Sprintbase.

The major theme I’ve seen for innovation in my own work through design thinking during this unique time has been similar to the image below. It’s been about responding to challenges (or unknown questions that force us to do new things in new ways) through applying innovative online collaboration software tools in ways that become new ideas acted upon that allow us to work in more digital and remote ways – and have a new kind of impact.
It would be great to hear what you are learning and creating during this era. We’ve got more resources coming soon on how to create, prototype, and design your own remote sessions as well as how to teach, facilitate and work in a more innovative way remotely.