The Evolution of Collaboration: Introducing the Virtual Truth Workshop

How we’re recreating the unique collaborative atmosphere of our Truth Workshops for a socially-distanced world.

It’s an understatement to say that the pandemic has changed how business operates. It has forced all of us into a state of rapid evolution. And as an agency, we’ve embraced it. We adopted new tools and adapted processes on a dime.

Some of these changes have had unexpectedly positive results. Our communication has been richer, our work has been even more efficient. Every function of the agency—media planning and buying, creative and production, strategy and client service—is now being flawlessly performed by our team from their virtual offices, kitchen tables, backyards and, in some cases, hidden away from their toddlers and spouses in a bathroom.

But there remained one nagging question to answer. And it dealt with our core—and arguably most valuable—agency offering. What about Truth Workshops?

Our Truth Workshops rely on an engaged group of people working together in a unique atmosphere toward common understanding. There can be up to 20 participants to wrangle, including cross-functional representatives from the client and agency teams. They take place at the agency’s Truth Bar—a space purposely built to encourage this kind of fruitful collaboration and chosen precisely because it takes people outside their usual routine.

It’s a full day of active, stimulating work. We scribble furiously on whiteboards scattered throughout the room, capturing thoughts, ideas and issues as they occur. We walk the room, talk things through, consider various points of view. At the end, we vote on priorities. Everyone has had a voice. Everyone is in it together. We’re aligned and moving in the same direction. It’s part strategy session, part therapy session.

So here’s the question: Is a Truth Workshop possible in a world where participants can’t be physically together in the Truth Bar? Where they’re sitting in their own homes (or potentially hidden in their bathrooms)? Can this unique atmosphere be recreated virtually?

The answer: We’re going to try.

What We’re Going For: Requirements for Success

On its most basic level, the Truth Workshop serves a few primary and valuable functions:

  • Open discussion: It must provide a secure space in which everyone can be heard while working toward common understanding and alignment.
  • Idea capture: It must ensure everyone in the room can see, share and capture ideas freely on the fly.
  • Prioritization: It must give everyone an equal chance to prioritize those issues they consider most important to solve.

So to be considered successful, our Virtual Truth Workshop had to be able to handle each of these functions welI. In addition, there is one slightly less obvious, factor that contributes to making a Truth Workshop successful. Ant this one is easily the most difficult to recreate:

  • Inspiring atmosphere: By design, The Truth Bar is a unique, comfortable, disarming environment that takes participants outside of our their daily routine.

How We’re Pulling It Off: Tech with a Dash of Inspiration

So we know what we need to achieve. It doesn’t take a genius to know that there are any number of digital tools available to serve these functions. But we set out to find, not just any solution, but the right solution for our exact needs. One with the right combination of features to give us confidence that we can recreate not just the function but the atmosphere of an in-person Truth Workshop. Here’s what we came up with: (Remember, this isn’t a discussion of the relative merits of each app, it’s purely the reason why it works for our needs.)

The best solution for recreating an open discussion: Zoom

Admittedly, most video conferencing apps are secure and stable enough to serve the basic meeting function of a Truth Workshop, but Zoom is ubiquitous for a reason. It’s generally very easy to install and set up, unlike many others (we’re looking at you Webex). But its killer feature is the grid view which allows users to see most, if not all, meeting participants on a single screen. It’s as close as any app gets to making participants feel like they’re in the same room together. Other apps only show a few participants or feature the person speaking. That’s fine for most smaller groups. In fact, we use Teams for internal office meetings and it works very well. But for large groups, for reading the room, for seeing facial expressions, Zoom is the winner. That being said, we understand clients may require using a different platform, and we’re well versed in most.

The best solution for capturing and prioritizing ideas: Miro  

There are a number of apps that give you a shared whiteboard, but Miro is head-and-shoulders above them all. It allows everyone in a meeting to view and add notes to the board in real time. You can zoom in and out of any area, draw, write, add Google images, type sticky notes and more all without leaving the board. It functions exactly like a real, theater-sized whiteboard that anyone in the meeting could walk up to and read every inch of at any moment without disrupting the room or the flow of conversation. (For this, it’s even be better than a real whiteboard.)

The other reason Miro is a perfect solution for us is there’s a built-in voting function. That means anyone in the meeting can place votes next to thoughts and ideas on the board that they feel are most important. This helps us prioritize the issues and ideas that need to be addressed by the agency.

The best solution for creating an inspiring atmosphere: Flowers

No, “Flowers” is not the latest Silicone Valley wunderkind app. Technology can do many things, but for this final, most crucial and intangible piece—creating an inspirational atmosphere—we’re falling back on technology that’s as old as time. Research has shown that flowers have a demonstrable improvement on creativity and problem solving skills. They also help reduce stress and even have a positive effect on overall mood and happiness. So each participant will receive a package of fresh-cut flowers they can place in view during the meeting to help them stay in a refreshed state of mind.

Putting it To Use Today

All of our clients have benefited from the bold, smart ideas, transformational opportunities and tangible results our Truth Workshops have generated for their organization. Our team has tested, recalibrated and optimized the Virtual Truth Workshop to deliver the same kinds of results in an even more efficient way.

There will be a time when we can get back together at the Truth Bar in-person, and we do look forward to that day. Until then, though, we’ve got the Truth Workshop’s virtual cousin ready to go.