Remote Workshops

Running a remote Design thinking workshop

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Design thinking workshop is a great team-building and collaborative activity that involves people from different departments coming together and contributing to a common cause – building great products.

These workshops allow discussion, interaction, presentation, and debate on a topic which is often constructive and helps in the overall evolution of the team and product.

Remote Design thinking workshops

I have always enjoyed running a physical workshop where people come together, exchange ideas, sketch, and draw up stuff that they never did before. They create empathy maps, user journey maps, use colorful post-it(s).

There is so much banter between the team members. It’s always been a highly collaborative, team-building activity for me. As an organizer, it’s wonderful to find meaning in that chaos, but in the new normal we are all at the comforts of our homes and we are barely able to manage our meetings then how to run a workshop like this? This question hit me quite hard. Then I realised even if not for pandemic the teams these days are global, so the workshop must be run remotely and efficiently.

I am glad I took up the challenge after much hesitation and reading the success stories of many teams who have managed to overcome these challenges. I must say the results have been highly satisfying. Here I take you through my journey of how to go about running a remote design thinking workshop with minimum resources and some planning.

Step 1: Planning (2 days)

The most integral part of any workshop is planning and it is often underrated. When it comes to planning, more is always less. I would allocate at least a minimum of 3 days to plan the workshop and get the first draft of a planning document.

Documenting your planning serves as a recipe for a great workshop. It proves as a reference point anytime in this journey. So always make sure you have a quick write-up of how long the workshop will be, all things you want in the workshop, the number of people involved in running it.

The most essential things that need to go into the planning document are

  1. Length of workshop: I planned for 3 days
  2. Content for workshop each day: 1.5 hr worth of content per day
  3. Activities planned for each workshop: Icebreaker, Solo and group activities
  4. Tools required to collaborate remotely: Zoom, Miro
  5. Number of participants required: Around 12 from different departments
  6. The final goal of the workshop: Outcome you want to achieve
  7. Post-workshop activities: Consolidating the feedback and design from participants and combining their thoughts into one design

Step 2: Participant selection (1 day)

Selecting the participants from various departments in the company is critical to the workshop. When I had to run the remote workshop for the first time, I chose people from Sales, Customer support, Development, Design who had spent at least a year working in the company. Approaching them for a 3-day workshop with 1.5 hr meeting each day was a task on its own. There were rejections, I had to swap out choices a few times, and voila finally had a good list of about 12 participants for the workshop. Then I divided them into groups of 4 and ensured that there is a mix of people from different departments. Most of them had never interacted with each other and it was a great platform to share and learn.

The participants often need to be followed up, to accept the invites for all the 3 days and keep themselves available for the complete workshop. The benefit of the workshop is maximum only if the participants commit to all the 3 days. Since each stage in the workshop is linked to the previous one.

Step 3: Pre-workshop preparation (3 days)

Now that I knew what and who is required to run the workshop, the main groundwork had to begin. Preparation of the content for each day in a presentation deck and preparing a collaboration tool.

In my case, I chose Google Slides for my presentation and Miro as the collaboration tool. I chose Miro since it provides great templates and is an extremely user-friendly collaborative tool. Before the workshop, I created a Miro board with all the templates for various exercises and had each participant's name on those. The Miro also included examples to aid the participants to refer to them in case they feel they need support during the process.

Finally, the crucial thing required for group activities is Zoom breakrooms. Pre-planning the group of participants helped me a lot in moving them to breakrooms efficiently during the call.


As mentioned previously I split the workshop into 3 days. Each session was about 1.5 hrs. Anything more than that would exhaust the participants. I planned break time of 10 mins in between the sessions.

Day 1: Empathy Mapping

Understanding the user is the key goal of design thinking. An Empathy map will help the participants to understand the user’s needs and develop a deeper understanding of the persons they are designing for.

The particpants were asked to complete this task individually and add post its to various sections of the empathy map.

I used the empathy Mapping template provided by Miro which helped me easily gather insights of users.

Day 2: Problem statement and Journey maps

This is the define phase where participants will narrow down on what the problem is and how to write an effective problem statement in order arrive at a solution later.

A good problem statements must include all five Ws (and one H).

  • Who is this problem for?
  • What is it?
  • When and Where does this problem exist?
  • Why does it need to be addressed?
  • How can we solve it?
Problem statement creation

User journey mapping

User journey map is a visual picture which helps you tell the story of your customer’s experiences.

Key components of the journey map are

  • Persona
  • Scenario
  • Expectations
  • Phases
  • Doing
  • Thinking & Saying
  • Opportunities
  • Internal ownership
User journey maps

Day 3 : Prototyping & Usability testing

Prototyping is a process where teams implement ideas into tangible forms from paper to digital. My team here used Miro boards to create wireframes for their solutions. This was by far the most exciting phase of the workshop and participants put their heart and soul into it.


A few benefits of prototyping are:

  • Provides you with first-hand insights into how your users will interact with, and react to the product you’re designing.
  • Helps you to identify any design flaws before it’s too late.
  • Helps you in making informed design decisions.

Usability testing

One of the final stage of our workshop, and we got one representative from each team go and test other groups prototypes. Teams were asked to come up with user testing scenarios and the user was posed with these scenarios. This seemed extremely insightful to the teams. They understood clearly how perceptions change and the variance of user behaviour.

User testing scenarios

This concludes how a 3 day workshop was run with limited resources, remotely.

At the end of workshop, make sure to let your participants know that how their inputs will be converted into a a final design and presented to them for their final feedback, before it goes to real users for testing.

Step 4: Post-workshop activities (5 days)

Post-workshop take time to go through the miro boards and understand the intent of the participants while they were trying to solve the problem in hand. Synthesize and make a note of the intricacies in their user journey maps and prototypes.

Brainstorm with the team and brief the design team on the outcome of the workshop. The design team will then convert these premature designs into the first design draft.

The design thinking workshop participants will be the first usability testers of the design draft. After all, they were responsible for the birth of the product 🙂

The design then goes through a minimum of two iterations with the participants of the design thinking workshop. Then it is presented to the real user for final approval. Usability testing will give all the insights required to ascertain that this is what is indeed required to solve the user pain points and the final set of designs is fed to the development process.


Running a design thinking workshop remotely though may sound challenging at first but it is not an impossible task. It can be enabled by the use of collaborative tools that help them in brainstorming and coming up with ideas. Some steps may seem time-consuming but the outcome is worth the wait. I would definitely encourage all the teams to practice this as an essential item for any new feature or product creation. 🙂

Resources: Sharing the Miro templates I used for this workshop:

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