Leading in Times of Change (Digital Collaboration Workshop)
Leading in Times of Change (Digital Collaboration Workshop)

The extraordinary events of the last year have pressed leaders to make quick, effective decisions in an ever-evolving environment. This was compounded by their inability to meet in person and reliance on digital collaboration via solutions such as Zoom’s video-meeting service and collaboration tool Miro.

Among the many methods that have gained prominence recently, the so-called Lightning Decision Jam stands out with its use of Design Thinking to drive problem-solving and creativity. To demonstrate its possibilities, MERIT and PeopleSmart recently hosted a two-hour interactive virtual workshop attended by HR and L&D practitioners across different industries.  

PeopleSmart, which specialises in the creation of innovative learning solutions, said the inspiration for offering an event that uses the Lightning Decision Jam method came from a project at the end of last year where it helped an organisation run a successful virtual conference for 180 people across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Identifying today’s main challenges

The first step in the session was to identify the main challenges that emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants were asked to choose two of seven areas that PeopleSmart has listed following conversations with organisations.

Here are the main challenges:

  • Digital – How can we accelerate digitalisation?
  • Diversity – How can we drive the changes required to become truly diverse and inclusive?
  • Empathy – How can we change the way that we lead to protect our staff from burning out while keeping projects on track?
  • Psychological safety – How can we create a safe working space where people feel a sense of belonging?
  • Resilience – How can we promote and protect our own well-being and that of others?
  • Disruption – How can we encourage and enable disruption?
  • Authenticity – How can we build authentic leadership traits that secure employee loyalty and commitment?

The challenges that garnered the most votes were digitalisation and psychological safety. Subsequently, participants were divided into two groups, each tackling one of the topics on the Miro collaboration tool.

Accelerating digitalisation

Let’s review the steps both groups followed to arrive at solutions. We start with the ‘digital’ group.   

Wind in our sails - What does your organisation already do well to foster digital skills?

Initially, participants were asked about the things their organisations do well to accelerate digitalisation. The HR and L&D practitioners pointed to factors such as support from C-level executives and the creation of excellence centres supporting digitalisation. In the course of the discussion a major challenge crystallised -- younger generations feel comfortable in digital environments, while older generations find it harder.

Anchors - What is holding your organization back?

This is where the search for problems thwarting a digital future began in earnest. Participants were invited to identify the ‘anchors’ constraining digitalization at their organisations. It turns out many things impede digital progress, among them insufficient knowledge, prejudice, bias, lack of interest, the fast pace of technological development, and the need to bring people out of their comfort zone. The problems that got most votes were lack of time and lack of interest, inconsistency in the conception of what digitalisation actually means, and an over-strong focus on short-term goals.  

How might we? - Making a problem more manageable

You must have got the idea of the Lightning Decision Jam method by now. Every step of the process involves the listing of problems or solutions and concludes with a vote to identify the most relevant items.

The next step in the method is the “How might we” technique, which aims to present a challenge in a format that makes it more manageable. So how can we solve the “lack of time and interest” problem? Participants were invited to be creative and develop five individual ideas for solutions to tackle the challenge in five minutes – “The crazy 5” step. One of the proposed solutions was to bring digital to the top of the agenda of employees. Then, participants were asked to generate ideas about how this might happen. Here are some of the proposals:  

  • Use the power of role models by getting management to utilize digital tools
  • Make every department forge its own plan for digitalization to activate the whole organisation
  • Find people with advanced tech expertise within your workforce who can inspire the other employees
  • Raise awareness that digitalisation is the future

These ideas were then moved to the decision phase, wherein participants ranked possible solutions according to the kind of impact each idea would have. With this, the main part of the workshop ended.

Improving psychological safety

The ‘psychological safety’ group followed the same methodical path, first identifying the main factors that prevent employees from feeling they belong in a certain workplace and then voting for solutions.

Wind in our sails - What does your organisation already do well to boost psychological wellbeing?

It is true that a lot still needs to be done to boost psychological safety at organizations, but it is also true that leaders already do a lot right. Here are a few examples: They develop other leaders as coaches and put a premium on leading by example. They avoid a blame culture, are aware of the importance of building trust, and see mistakes as possibilities for improvement.

Anchors - What is holding your organisation back?

For all the progress companies have made, there is room for improvement. One of the most frustrating ‘anchors’ participants identified was a lack of direction from top leaders. Other hindrances are non-empathetic corporate cultures and a lack of role models. Further obstacles are the dizzying pace of change and the pressure on people to perform, which indeed may improve corporate bottom lines but often takes a huge toll on the psychological health of employees. All in all, participants voted the lack of role models and the pressure on people to perform as the two main problems preventing organizations from achieving satisfactory psychological safety levels.

How might we? - Making a problem more manageable

The pressure on people to perform, seen through the lens of the “How might we” technique, takes the form of a question: How might we alleviate the pressure on people? Seeing the problem reframed in a more manageable form helped the HR and L&D practitioners in this group come up with a plethora of very interesting solutions. Here are the ones that got the most votes at the end of the session:

  • Find ways to have fun online, not just meetings
  • Give more autonomy
  • Introduce a short break during every meeting
  • Introduce time management training
  • Focus on the relationship, not just tasks

Exploring new ways of collaborating

The participants in the Lightning Decision Jam workshop gave positive feedback, expressing their surprise at the speed and efficiency of the decision-making process. What they liked most was the fact that ideas are generated quickly and everyone is given a chance to participate. The Menti word cloud provides a neat summary of their feedback:

One of the participants pointed out that two hours is not really enough time to discuss the subtleties of the different ideas because every step of the process is strictly timed. Yet, the Lightning Decision Jam method is not rigid, which means the process can be prolonged or made more flexible, either by allocating more time for each step or by organizing another session to delve deeper into some of the ideas.

The workshop was a great opportunity to connect with an international group of peers and craft solutions together, while exploring new ways of working and collaborating virtually. For more illuminating insights, follow MERIT’s upcoming events.