Ideation in remote design teams

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Simon Heereman asked me via LinkedIn:

How might ideation look like with distributed teams? Gotta be more intuitive than right now, I am hoping. Eager for your experiences

I’ve found the distributed team paradigm to be enormously useful for collaborating in “sticky note” fashion. Why? Because it takes one hundredth of the time needed to get folks setup with virtual sticky pads because you don’t have to tear off pages and hand them out to each individual one-by-one. There’s no need to hand out pens as well because they just need to type into the keyboards.

And the best part? It takes only a few minutes for your distributed team members to put everything on the shared digital board and move things around with their cursor avatars. Clustering of ideas happens in almost zero time NIRL because there’s no bodies bumping into each other in front of a physical wall trying to move sticky-notes around. 

As a simple example of the “no bumping into each other” paradigm, the following GIF illustrates one of my experiments in dealing with the fact that we don’t have fancy cafeterias like at Google. So I tried offering “virtual food” for folks to snack on when lunch time came around. Here’s everyone choosing their food preference (which unfortunately isn’t wired to a DoorDash etc yet) as our closet approximation to eating together while virtual.

Virtually eating together in an Automattic Design NIRL meetup.

What’s the BFD if you’re not a remote team? I strongly suggest that IRL teams use virtual sticky-noting technologies when they’re together just because it’s faster and because it scales so fluidly. Also you have the shared artifact always available to you for later use. And throw in some virtual food if you need to, like me. —JM