Anastasia Khusid

We ran a week-long remote sprint: Here’s what we’ve learned

At oneUp, we make big companies future-proof, by structurally driving disruptive innovation and creating new business models. We even wrote a book about this!

As a part of our approach, we (used to) lock ourselves in a room for a week or two, together with the decision-makers and experts of this big company, and enable ideas to come to reality in a limited time in what we call “the boiler room”.

When working with innovation, you eat uncertainty for breakfast

As a tech innovation company, we know a thing or two about remote working, uncertainty and changing business models.

That means, when the Corona crisis arrived, changing our approach and working practices into a remote way was something that happened relatively naturally. But not for our clients.

We know that many big companies struggle with internal policies, finding the right tools, communication and implementing new ways of working.

Luckily, we have some really bold clients, and in the end, we managed to start running our workshops and sprints remotely.

In this article, we will share one specific experience with you when we ran a Config Sprint with one of our clients: A Config sprint with a big financial services client based in The Netherlands.

But wait… What is a Config Sprint?

A config sprint is part of our 9 Diamond Framework, an action-driven structured process for launching your innovation machine. To set up your corporate structuring, management, and execution for full-speed innovation, we run a 5-day workshop. In these 5 days, we define innovation visions and build a 90-day plan to get companies to the next level. The key benefit? Saving months of complex analysis and decision-making.

Alright! So, how did it go?

Let’s start off with the fact that the sprint was a success (woof!). To be fully transparent, we were a bit hesitant about the online set-up and what the outcomes would be, compared to a physical sprint. In the end, the remote situation and the challenges we faced created a positive impact on the team building. Big compliments to all participants for their flexibility!

What were our top learnings?

#1: Preparation is key!

If you have delivered a workshop, session, or anything as such before, you probably know how important preparation is. When it comes to a virtual workshop, it becomes a make-or-break factor.

One key aspect is to look into your session’s outline and think about the best way to adapt it to an online setting. We used a couple of tools for that, but making sure you have a plan for each interaction and that materials are ready before the session starts is the most important.

Another point is to involve the team beforehand: a couple of days ahead of the workshop, start engaging with them (e.g. provide an agenda, send topics to be read, ask for expectations and concerns in advance, etc.).

#2: Help participants set the right remote workspace beforehand

The group took great responsibility in setting up the right working environment at home, even when there were quite some challenges, like (un)happy kids running around, neighbors running renovations, and other distractions. Creating a space where you can work in silence and have the possibility to talk is necessary, not only for running a successful session but for remote working in general.

#3: Set communication guidelines

When working together remotely, a big part of your non-verbal communication falls away. For this reason, be sharp on communicating, and often check if everyone got the message. When asking a question, mention the person you want to reply to avoid awkward silences or that everyone talks at the same time.

#4: Create the right vibe

Since we are used to physical networking, we’ve noticed that connecting remotely can be a little awkward in the beginning. And that’s okay. Make sure to take some time to create a relaxed environment: Crack a joke, play a short game, do a funny introduction, you name it, but break the ice before you dive into the sprint itself.

#5: Use the right tools, but not too many of them

There are lots of catchy tools that can assist you with your work (and also already a lot of blog posts about this, so we’ll keep it short).

Our advice? Don’t use too many of them!

Sometimes the old-fashioned paper and pencil still do a great job. For example; the people in our group worked individually in a quiet space at home on the creative parts (such as storyboarding and solution sketches), drawing their sketches on paper first, and then uploaded them as pdf in Mural.

#6: Set expectations with the group

As a facilitator, it is important to give people a strong sense of responsibility: you are not alone in this session. Be clear in expectations and results: if possible, create them together with your audience.

Discussing feedback openly, always with a focus on the positive sides, is also a good tip.

Our Verdict: How did we experience it?

All in all, our experience has been very positive: In 5 days, we reviewed our client’s innovation activities, set innovation visions and opportunities to follow, and designed a 90-day plan to implement and execute their innovation machine.

The end pitch for the senior management also took place remotely, and the feedback was very positive. They were proud of the team, their flexibility and mentioned they would’ve never thought it would be possible to get such output through remote working!

The truth is when doing it right, running a remote session can be even more efficient than a physical one because you put focus on what matters. Something that we’ve confirmed in many other remote workshops, that we’ve running lately.

What about you? We’re very keen to hear your experiences of running sprints/workshops remotely.

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If you want to set up or run your innovation strategy remotely, but you’re not completely sure how to do it, we’d love to help you out. Get in touch with us here and we are happy to schedule a (virtual) coffee!

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