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→ "Setting the stage"

Remote workshops, online collaboration, the digital workplace, different terms that all describe the same; The move into the virtual space. Although we have been experiencing a gradual transformation towards the digital workplace for quite some years, the pandemic accelerated the shift. This sped-up transition has impacted us all, both in society and business.

COVID-19 has bound the majority of organisations to work and collaborate remotely. In particular, the second wave has obliged everyone to take a deeper look into the ocean of fancy tools available, including us. Nonetheless, although we prefer to collaborate with you in one room, we have experienced many benefits whilst engaging with remote teamwork and collaborations. 

Essentially, it allowed for an increased amount of collaborations between, and workshops with stakeholders that, in other situations, might never engage in one room. At the same time, due to the often ambitious agenda, remote programs often have shown even more efficient than in-person workshops. Indeed, this increased flexibility has resulted in the fact that valuable stakeholders are more likely to say yes. Whilst hosting the many different online formats with clients and participants from diverse industries and backgrounds made us realise that placing an increased emphasis on ‘Setting the (digital) Stage’ is key to the success of each remote session. For instance, for the Swiss Food Research MAKEathon a careful preparation of the process was necessary, seen the somewhat experimental approach. In particular to allow the teams to optimally collaborate in a digital environment. For another remote workshop, we encountered the importance of creating a common language and digital sympathy. Specifically in this case asking ourselves the right set of questions beforehand and including a suitable remote warm-up would have benefited the workshop outcome. In other words, we might have used another stage. So how do set the stage? And what does it mean for us?

‘Setting the Stage’

Generally, we prepare our workshops, ideation sessions, design sprints etc. based on three aspects; People, places, and processes. For remote workshops we do the same, however, over the past months, we have started to ask a few different questions. 

For people, we increased our focus to find out; Who are they? Where are they located? What is their timezone? More importantly, have they worked together before? And, how digital savvy are they?

For places (= tools), we started asking ourselves the following; Have the participants worked with this tool(s) before? How digital native are they? Are they participating for self-interest or is it an obligation? 

For processes, we began to concentrate more on the preparation; What can I, as a facilitator, visually prepare before? Which tools fit best with the processes planned? How can I communicate the process simply and effectively? 

Besides, ‘Setting the Stage’ includes the following either prior to, or during the project kick-off:

- Getting to know one another  
- Familiarisation with the online collaboration tools
- Introduction to remotely working together 

As a result, setting up a successful remote workshop, Design Sprint or similar requires the combined and increased focus on the preparation and collaborative project kick-off that breaks the ‘digital’ ice. Through our experience in facilitating different formats, both online and offline, we are aware of the differences between both and are only eager to learn more.

Are you looking for some remote warm-up inspiration or want to learn more about our approach? Take a look at our warm-up collection here or contact us via

Jiske van Straaten
Business Associate
Jiske has a background in Communication, Creative Business Management and Strategic Design. With a heart for creativity, arts and design she additionally developed a passion for (impact) innovation by connecting and working closely with social startup ecosystems across the world. In her current position as business associate she support clients with their innovation challenges on a daily basis. Always making sure to continue to learn and share the innovation mindset inherent to Spark Works.
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