Online collaboration tools for innovative work remotely
If you and your teams have found yourselves working more remotely, you may be interested in this collection of top remote working, meeting, communication and facilitation tools that can increase your collaboration, impact, productivity, and ease while working virtually or from home. We’ve compiled this “meta-list” from looking at the software tools that were recommended again and again from 30 different innovative designers, collaborators, and facilitators who were posting their own lists of recommended software and online tools in our social networks. We’ve been doing this research project remotely with a team as well, using Sprintbase to guide the larger design thinking project that this is a part of. We also use another one of our favorite video screensharing tools called Loom to demonstrate the application of many of these apps in our online program on remote workshop facilitation and design.
Online Meetings, Workshops & Virtual Presentations
Zoom is a video conferencing tool that can be used to effectively communicate with your teams virtually. This easy-to-use software means that you can still schedule and attend meetings or workshops from anywhere, with access on all of your devices. They have great collaboration tools like breakout rooms and whiteboarding that can make your meetings more engaging and interactive. Zoom was by far the most popular tool for online meetings. It is also what we prefer to use for important meetings and even large group workshops. See this guide for resources for using Zoom to facilitate innovative virtual workshops and remote meetings.
Skype, a Microsoft product, is another great conferencing tool for teams. Offering both chat and video/voice call features, this tool can be used to connect with members of your team virtually. You can also easily share your screen with participants on the call to further collaborate and communicate together. Connected to Skype, people also frequently mentioned Microsoft Teams as a powerful tool to help them work and collaborate remotely.
Whereby has been one of our favorite online meeting tools for some time. We started using it when it was called Appear.in. Many like this one because it is simple to use. It’s a good choice for someone that has never done an online meeting before. It’s pretty easy to install and get started with. What we like best about it is the free plan, you don’t have the group size and time limits that Zoom has. It’s a good free online meeting tool for meetings with 2-4 people.
Online Whiteboarding, Ideation, & Collaborative Visualization
MURAL brands itself as a “digital workspace for visual collaboration.” This incredibly useful design thinking software and innovation tool can help you and your team think and collaborate visually. Create diagrams, brainstorm topics and ideas, and facilitate more impactful meetings and workshops. This is a popular tool for those running design sprints online. See our post on what is Mural and how to use Mural for design thinking sprints.
Miro looks and feels like an online whiteboard. It used to be called RealtimeBoard. This tool can again be used to facilitate brainstorming, mapping, and diagramming with your team or workshop participants. It’s easy to use and again allows every member of your team or program to be actively involved and collaborating together. We synthesized the 30 insights we found in the social networks with a Miro whiteboard. See our post with tutorials to learn more about what is Miro and how to use it.
You’ve probably heard of Canva, the wildly popular free-to-use online graphic design tool. We love to use Canva to create and design handouts and activity sheets for our design thinking, innovation, and storytelling workshops and programs. Did you know that they now also have a free online whiteboard? Canva Whiteboards feature a new infinite canvas so you have the room to visualize and expand your ideas. You can collaborate and brainstorm with your team, create flow charts, start a mood board, and do many other activities to innovate with your team. If it’s from Canva it’s definitely worth a try.
Stormboard is a fairly robust software tool for innovation and agile-focused teams, with many of the same features and benefits of whiteboard tools like Mural or Miro. With an infinite canvas and the option to add multimedia elements to your collaboration spaces, this could be an effective way for your team to ideate and collaborate together. Learn more about Stormboard in our helpful guide.
Conceptboard is a low-cost option for innovation teams that offers an integrated screen share and video chat, document and image handling, secure sharing options, and easy-to-use templates to get started quickly. Learn more about Conceptboard in our guide.
Build digital whiteboards quickly with Shape, a tool from IDEO. Use templates to easily work together with your virtual or in-person teams. Features include surveys, shared workspaces, and a searchable directory for learning in one place. Discover more about Shape in our guide.
This whiteboard tool allows you to use sticky notes and shapes, annotate the screen, react with stickers and stamps, and seamlessly copy and paste between the tool and Figma’s robust platform. Learn more about Figjam in our guide.
Klaxoon is another cloud-based all-in-one tool that your team be may interested in trying for brainstorming sessions and meetings. Learn more about Klaxoon in our guide.
Lucidspark is another virtual collaboration tool designed specifically for collaborative meetings and strategic planning. Learn more about Lucidspark in our guide.
Surveys and Eliciting Feedback
SurveyMonkey is one of the leading survey tools available. This software program is designed to easily measure and understand feedback from participants. You can use it to conduct surveys at the start of your program, to explore how many participants understand a topic throughout, or at the end as an exit survey to receive powerful feedback to improve as a facilitator.
TypeForm is an alternative survey option that provides quite a bit of customization when designing and setting up your survey. You can use this tool for similar activities that you would SurveyMonkey. You can also use Google Forms for surveying.
Calendars & Scheduling Meetings
If you need help scheduling meetings and don’t want to resort to the same-old emails back and forth, Calendly might be the tool for you. This free online scheduler makes it easier to find the best time to meet with everyone on your team, or to schedule a one-on-one meeting in an open spot in your calendar that could be changing rapidly.
Since scheduling meetings can often become a chore, Rally is designed to make this process a bit easier by allowing each team member to pick which slots of time they are available. Then, the meeting can be scheduled based on when everyone can be included. The simple voting system is easy to understand and takes out much of the work involved with tracking down everyone’s schedules.
Communication & Messaging
Slack originally started as a messaging tool for internal teams that would essentially replace emails. With a similar appearance and feel of most messaging apps, Slack allows you to create custom channels to discuss certain topics or ideas. It’s great to keep your messages organized in one place, and so that you can only include the right people on any given conversation channel (rather than a mass email chain that often cluttered inboxes!).
WhatsApp is a relatively new player on the field and offers reliable messaging and communication services to people who use the app on their phone or computer. Their group chats allow you to share messages, photos, and videos with up to 256 people at once. Its simple design and straightforward features make it easy to connect with the people you need to and keep the conversation flowing.
Storage & File Collaboration
If your team, program, class, or workshop requires collaborating on documents or spreadsheets, you may want a cloud-based storage software that can not only keep your documents safe, but also allow you to collaborate together in real-time. Google Drive is a full-suite of these kinds of products, with Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets, and Google Forms.
This alternative cloud-based storage system also allows for the collaboration of documents and file sharing. You can download Dropbox to your computer and it will sync between the cloud and your device. Any changes are made in real-time, so all members or participants can access the latest version when they need to.
Trello looks and feels similar to the social media platform Pinterest. This collaboration tool allows you to create “Boards” where you can generate ideas, edit, and save important information in one place. Work with your team and move tasks over as they are completed or as you decide on an idea to prototype and run with. This tool can really be customized into whatever you want it to be, from an ideation/inspiration board to a task manager or class resources tool.
Asana is another popular work management tool that will help you and your team to manage projects. It helps people in organizations to more easily organize and plan workflows and projects so a team’s work can be on schedule. This is a popular software for project managers and those that are practicing agile in their organizations.
Our favorite category of tools are the online realtime collaborative whiteboards. View our post on top virtual whiteboard tools for online collaboration to learn more about many of these which are also becoming AI tools.
These are just some of the top tools that are recommended by innovative remote professionals, facilitators, and designers to utilize in online meetings, workshops, and classes. What other tools would you recommend? Let us know in the comments of this post or contact us today if you’d like customized assistance facilitating your innovation/design thinking program remotely.
P.S.: We’ve heard from many people who want to use this time to finally creating their own online workshop or course to offer. You can use many of the above tools to help you do that (such as recorded videos/webinars from Zoom or screenshare videos from our favorite tool for that, Loom). You could then host the course or program on Teachable which was named by Fast Company as the most innovative education company of 2020. They do Teachable Summits where you can learn how to develop and offer your own online courses. We’ve learned a lot from them and have been using Teachable to host our online innovation workshops, leadership development courses, and design thinking programs.