Digital Doodle: Remotely foster community and connection
We need and depend on other humans. During this era of social distancing and remote work, this inescapable truth has been brought front-and-center. To sustain our collaborative and communicative needs, we have rapidly come to rely on video chats, texting and content sharing apps, and email. While I am infinitely grateful for the technology that enables us to virtually connect and do work with others, it is challenging to fill our social cups and replicate the spontaneous creativity and joy arising from in-person interaction.
And thus the seeds were planted as our team prepared for a virtual interactive talk: find an accessible approach to foster remote collaboration that felt natural, fun, and engaging.
The introductory activity we proposed, a Digital Doodle, was inspired by artist Jon Burgerman. The benefits of doing creative collaborative activities span the gamut from increased innovation to reduced stress. By starting our event with an open-ended artistic exercise, we aimed to ease stress and facilitate feelings of connection with others.
After exploring about a dozen options and ways of facilitating, we tested with a small-group pilot using the Microsoft Whiteboard app. The Digital Doodle was a huge hit! The Whiteboard app worked well for a group size of about 10 as shown in cover photo above. Letting loose our colleagues’ creativity and humor was both entertaining and a positive team building experience.
After the pilot, we also tested the Mural platform to enable folks without the Whiteboard app to doodle. During our talk, we had about 35 folks drawing across four different boards! Their imagination resulted in the doodles below:
Each different group worked together and inspired each other in unique ways, resulting in vastly varied creations across groups. We found that although participants were mostly quiet during doodling, afterwards they expressed feeling a sense of camaraderie and connection. Multiple folks reached out after the event to ask for permission to replicate, to which we replied with an enthusiastic “YES!”
Due to positive feedback from our own event’s participants, we are sharing this activity in the hopes that more folks can use it as a way to have fun and connect with others remotely. So please, go forth and facilitate a Digital Doodle! Incorporate as a quick, 5-minute introduction to a talk or meeting while folks filter in, facilitate as a focused team-building activity for 20–30 minutes, or anything in between!
Here are the Digital Doodle Guidelines:
1. Draw a shape, a blob, or a line.
2. Find another person’s blob and add one thing to it.
a. The “one thing” is open to interpretation. Maybe you add a single line, or a shape like a triangle, or maybe you add an eye or a group of eyes.
3. Wait until someone else has added to that shape, or find another shape, and again add one thing.
4. Repeat 2 and 3 until you are satisfied.
5. Repeat 1–4 as time permits!
This activity functions best in small groups (5–10 people). It can be run as a one-off or a reoccurring series, and can be modified to fit the needs of your group! I hope you and your friends/family/colleagues/communities find this activity as fun and socially-filling as we did.
Have questions or need additional inspiration? Feel free to reach out: AskAMaker@microsoft.com