Mural : Online Visual Collaboration Made Simple
Visual collaboration tools like Mural offer easily accessible digital spaces to solve problems and foster innovation. Participatory visual solutioning with a cross-functional team generates shared understanding, co-created solutions, and all-important buy-in from team members and key stakeholders.
The Evolution Of What It Means To “Work” Together.
In this current environment, it’s helpful to think of “work” not as a location, but as the output of what we accomplish as a team. “Working” is simply the collective effort we apply to some problems we need to solve. Our team may or may not be physically located with us, but as long as the needed output is being produced, we are at “work”.
In the future, the line between physical and digital will become more blurred and what will matter is not the space we occupy but the answer to the question: “In this situation, what is the best way for our current team to solve this specific problem creatively and what tools will help us accomplish that most efficiently?”
Mural — An Effective Visual Collaboration Tool.
At DefinedLogic we engage in participatory design and solutioning in both physical workspaces where team members are co-located and online in digitally-defined workspaces for distributed teams. A digitally-defined workspace can consist of many tools. We use a combination of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Mural. In this article, we’ll look at how Mural enables effective remote collaboration.
Mural, is a giant canvas that can be used in your web browser or in a touch-ready app. It can do all of the things a physical whiteboard can; users can sketch, use a variety of post-it notes, engage in dot voting, comment on, and annotate designs. But because it is digital, it offers a number of unique advantages over a traditional whiteboarding session.
Digital tools are by nature more flexible than their analog counterparts, a great example being digital post-it notes. They dynamically change their font size to fit the content into the note as you type, they can be changed to a new color, resized, copied, and deleted on the fly. You can easily create aligned grids for your notes using shortcut commands and easily find them with a search function. You can even copy data from an Excel spreadsheet and, when you paste it into Mural, it will create a separate sticky note for each cell in the spreadsheet. Digital post-it notes never run out.
Unlike a traditional whiteboard or wall, the canvas in Mural is flexible and infinitely extensible. In a physical session where you run out of whiteboard space, you may need to move to the next wall, or to a rolling whiteboard, or put large post-it sheets on the window, the door, or an easel. With a digital canvas, you just drag its borders and — presto — more working space.
Users can sketch right in the Mural canvas or do their designs in their favorite digital tool and drag and drop the output right into the Mural. Team members can all design in whatever way they are most comfortable. You can even sketch with paper and pencil, take a snapshot of your design with your smartphone, and import it into the digital space.
Synchronous & Asynchronous Collaboration.
A digital workspace supports both the synchronous collaboration that a physical space can provide, where team members all participate at the same time and share the experience together, as well as asynchronous collaboration, where team members can work independently on their own time and evolve a concept or design prior to or in-between sessions. In this case, the team can still experience the evolution together, but not necessarily all at the same time.
Unlike a physical space, team members can all be working on a digital whiteboard at the same time, even in the same section, without worrying about bumping into one another. Also, the board is available at any time of day or night for review and evolution. If sections of the board are in process, they can be easily locked down, or hidden if necessary. This provides a level of access and control that is not easily achieved with their physical counterparts.
At DefinedLogic we use the Mural Plug-in for Microsoft Teams to keep everyone up to date on the progress of design in Mural and to help bridge the conversation seamlessly between the two tools. You can even record a Zoom call and post the link to the recording of the session for the team to review anytime or for people who have missed the call to get up to speed.
Sharing Content & Output.
Files, images, and links to documents and websites can all be easily incorporated and embedded into the board. Team members can access all of the research information and resources needed for solutioning right in the canvas itself.
Variations and iterations can be easily captured as they evolve, and high-fidelity output can be generated easily in a number of formats. No need to photograph whiteboards with your smartphone.
If a situation calls for it, a Mural board also easily accommodates split teams, where some members are online and others are working in a shared physical location on a monitor, or individual laptops, or all of the above.
Learning new ways to work visually in a digital environment provides new avenues for creativity, efficiency, and visual problem-solving, especially for distributed teams. These new methods can also be extended and blended into the physical workspace as well. By establishing effective physical and digital working environments, Teams become nimbler and more flexible, ready to handle any challenge.