There seems to be a common belief that distributed collaboration is better suited for execution work, and that good strategic work often comes from a “war-room” or workshop setup. A physical space where people are surrounded by research artifacts and in-person sparring is, therefore, spatially facilitated.
While that notion can be true in some cases, we have had many successful remote experiences arriving at valuable insights with our clients collaboratively.
We replaced the war room concept with our beloved Virtual Jams.
Virtual Jams is a strategy jam session designed by Your Majesty to get the most of our clients virtually. Without getting too much into logistic details (as it can vary), we’ll share some pointers that have kept our past virtual jams effective.
1. Prepare for inclusive participation
Without being in the same room together, it’s easy to lose sight of the less-vocally-forward participants in a session. To avoid this, we set up a personal note-taking slide for everyone in the jam deck (using Google Slides) to jot down their thoughts during discussions and make sure to go through them prior to moving on to another exercise. We also match jam duos or trios up front, to make sure that executives and employees are equally distributed as opposed to being concentrated on the basis of decision-making power.
2. Embrace structural chaos
One of the perks of being in a war-room is that you are constantly surrounded by research artifacts and contextual information which helps with lateral thinking.
Going a virtual route, we’d like to avoid presenting research in a scripted structure but invite clients straight to our virtual mood boards and let conversations spark there.
3. Don’t stop drawing
Despite being in a digital-oriented session, we want to make sure that we can still use drawing as a powerful tool to make abstract ideas tangible.
4. Align on a “move forward” mechanism
The objective of a strategic jam session is only to get closer to the solution and not to make the final decision on the spot. It’s important to know when to put a conversation on hold and proceed to the next. For our virtual jams, we have the following system to avoid rabbit holes and decisions being made by a group of 20 participants:
- Icebox slide: Dedicate one slide in the deck to capture ideas and discussions that are not directly relevant to the task at hand.
- Dotmocracy: Everyone has a set of digital dots tagged with their initials in the deck. At the end of each discussion, they can put it next to ideas they resonate with the most.
- Recap deck: After the jam session, we compile all discussions in a recap deck with discussion highlights and takeaways from the data visualization of the dotmocracy exercise. Everyone can comment and suggest adjustments if needed.
The final decision on how to move forward from the recap deck will be made between our strategic representatives and a limited number of the client’s stakeholders.
5. Make it fun
At Your Majesty, we love jam sessions. They are opportunities where we get to spar with our clients candidly, ask difficult questions, and freely challenge any status quo. It is usually through these jams that our clients get to see our goofier—but arguably, more human — sides. These sessions balance our dynamics, strengthen our partnerships, and allow us to have a lot more fun together throughout the project.
In 2015, Your Majesty announced a remote working policy that allows our team members to work from anywhere they find themselves to be the most inspired and productive. Additionally, being a global agency means that we work with clients across all timezones.
This combination has enabled us to innovate our working process and evolve into a more remote-friendly workplace; one that does not only use the right tools for the job, but also takes our clients’ differences into consideration to design processes that are tailored, inclusive, and productive.