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Ramona Wagner

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Here at the #DTTT, we used the last year to slowly change the way we work with our #DTTT Experts and destinations by embracing remote design as an integral part of how we deliver ideation workshops, audits, plans and frameworks across a range of topics. For many destinations, the remote design concept is fairly new, so I wanted to share our journey and experience so far working with remote design tools, delivering services for destinations in a completely digital environment. 

Over the last couple of years, we put a lot of thought into making our workshops more effective, interesting and hence the destinations we work with happy about what their teams get. Often this involved thinking carefully about which case studies and destination examples we bring which led us to work more and more with printed templates to support creative idea sessions to gather input.

Even though a lot of effort is put into customising each workshop, supporting a team with often quite complex issues, can be a challenge. Needless to say that the delivery of a workshop always means having to travel, losing valuable time on the road. With a 10 am workshop start, an hour lunch break and a 5 pm end, time is always running out to cover everything, especially when there are questions or discussions. For teams, being part of a workshop can also be a challenge, as they are away from their desk for the entire day, having to catch up with emails, etc. after the workshop. Taking the ideas and decisions from the workshop forward takes time and requires the communication of key action points internally. The end result for many teams - ideas remain ideas and are often not implemented straightaway.

Our methods and remote design approach are a real game changer to overcome all of the above challenges and is something we as a team are really proud of.

Remote Design

At the start of 2017, we introduced remote design to deliver workshops or meetings efficiently even when we are not physically able to be with a team. Remote design has many benefits, as it can bring people together from all parts of the globe. A few months in, we are certainly championing remote design for client work, especially with regards to cutting costs and delivering tangible results.

Funnily enough, not being in a room together is not actually putting up barriers in terms of everyone engaging but the opposite is the case so far. Clients connect to our systems and technology, eager to participate in virtual brainstorms, working with unique templates and virtual canvases in real-time. Everyone is participating and at the end of a remote design session with a client, they walk away with tonnes of digitalised material that can be shared as pdfs internally.

We spend time in the lead up to a remote design session, working through internal documents, collaborating closely with a client to design canvases which we then work through as a group. The collaborative process with destinations is great, as we get the chance to dig much deeper and can really work with them as an extended team rather than external consultants. As part of the remote design sessions, teams can tune colleagues from other offices which are opening up collaboration opportunities beyond a team's office.

However, remote design workshops can be intense, as so many great ideas are shared and developed in a short amount of time. We are not only optimising how much time we are dedicating to each topic but also organise the day in time blocks of around 2 hours. Studies are telling us the optimal attention span in meetings is 2 hours so we are trying to divide the time into short bursts of brainstorms to keep the sessions interesting and effective. After each 2 hours mini sprint, teams can check emails, get coffee and work on their own projects.

Delivering Remote Design Experiences

Over the last months, we have worked on remote design projects with destination clients and our Expert Team, trying to push the boundaries of what can be achieved combining physical with remote sessions or organising sessions delivered in a fully remote environment. The outcomes are often surprisingly detailed and thorough, working with teams on putting together a concrete plan of action. We work closely with many destinations organising regular remote design sessions supported by our Expert team. We work much more as an extended team, supporting the planning and implementation of ideas which is often a great support for destinations.

This is also something that we introduced for our Launchpad subscribers, offering remote design sessions with us as part of their subscription. Essentially, we are learning a lot too from organising and preparing remote design sessions tackling some of the big challenges that destinations are facing. We are still doing similar things to what we have done in the last years but are using digital environments to collaborate has meant moving away from traditional presentations, printed templates and sticky notes to a fully digital, efficient and collaborative experience when working with us. We are proud to champion quite unique remote design methods for destinations and are setting the bar very high in terms of quality of delivery, productivity in our sessions as well as delivering actionable results enabling teams to succeed.

Remote Design Tips

As far as learnings go, we have had only good responses from destinations so far, wanting to organise remote design sessions as something they regularly schedule throughout the year rather than a one-off session. A first barrier when first thinking about remote design sessions is the need to understand the concept. Technology can be another barrier, ensuring firewalls are not blocking sites and meeting rooms can support audio and video feeds. Although this might sound complicated a Skype or Hangout call + video camera and speakers does the trick.

Here our top remote design tips:

  • Select the right tools to support your remote design session and test them beforehand
  • Prepare remote design templates to organise and structure idea sessions
  • Keep templates and digital canvases simple yet provide a structure that guides everyone when working through them
  • Nominate a facilitator for the remote design session to introduce the topic and explain how it will work
  • Invite people that can contribute with great ideas from your different offices
  • Provide best practices and stimuli to feed the discussion
  • Ask the right questions to get to the bottom of any challenges or road blocks
  • Document discussions and vote on ideas
  • Make collaborative decisions and summarise concrete follow-up actions
  • Share summary documents internally and decide on who will do what after the workshop

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