Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to this video episode of Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Today, I’m excited to be here with Hannah Burson, who is the founder of salt Collaboratory, human centered design firm using design thinking. I was curious to know about this tool mural that I just recently started hearing about, Hannah has kindly offered to give me an overview of this powerful tool. And so Hannah, welcome to the show. Thank you excited to be here. So if you were only listening on audio, you might want to check look at your phone, because this would be a highly visual episode. Hannah, thanks so much for being on the show. Why don’t you go ahead and share your screen and you can start walking me through mural.
Hannah Bersen 00:57
Terrific, thank you. All right, let me know if you’re seeing it.
Will Bachman 01:00
Yes, I see it well. So wait, why don’t you start with sort of give us a quick overview of this tool? What What does it allow us to do?
Hannah Bersen 01:09
Well, it’s designed to be a visual collaboration tool. So you’ll see that a lot of that as opposed to document sharing is oriented around the visual aspects of the work. So think about it, like a whiteboard that everybody can work on collaboratively, but in the digital space, and of course, with COVID, and pandemic, and all that people are starting to explore it more and use it more. And I’m one of those, okay. And it just gives us all the ability to do different kinds of work in this collaborative arena.
Will Bachman 01:40
Okay, so you Why don’t you walk me through an example what maybe you just create a new file, or I guess you’d call it a new mural. Mm hmm. Show me how that works.
Hannah Bersen 01:51
So when you create a new mural, everything is very intuitive and well thought through in terms of the design. So you’ll see this opportunity to create a new mural, you’ll click on that. And the first thing that will strike you is you can either create a blank mural, where you will be designing and building it yourself. And we can look at that. Or you have the option to borrow from a very, very robust list of templates. So regardless of your orientation, if you’re a design thinking person, there’s plenty of those, if you’re a lean person, there’s plenty of those, if you just do project management, there’s plenty of those. So there’s lots of these different types of templates. And actually, what’s neat about anyone that you might choose is that they come with some explanations built in for how to use that template. So if you’re exploring, there’s ways to actually acquire new skills yourself as well. So we could pick a template and start with that. And we will look at a template in a minute. You can also start with a blank mural, if you have. And I’ve started to do this as well, because I no longer use PowerPoint, if I want to create something, and I want to bring some text over like a title. If I wanted to add some sticky notes, I could do that very easily. If I wanted to add some shapes, that’s easy to do as well, if I need some Bull’s eyes or something like that. And similarly for any kind of icons, any kind of frameworks that I want to bring in. So because this mural is very flexible, and if you actually look at the size of the space, just gonna shrink it down. And you can even have bigger ones, you can get an enormous amount of content on one page if you don’t want to have your client flipping through many pages. And they can very easily zoom in and out using this function at the bottom.
Will Bachman 03:44
Yeah, I love that, you know, I have a client and close friend who’s a big fan of Edward tufte D. And one thing he did with his firm is, rather than going in with a PowerPoint presentation, or just a big set of document pages, he had, he came up with these, like 12 by 24, you know, large one sheets of paper that had his entire product overview, everything on one page. And this looks like it allows you to do that zooming in and explore zooming
Hannah Bersen 04:15
in and zooming out, right? And so that’s very helpful. The other thing that you’ll see up here in the top is this ability to share. So of course, if you’re going to be using it frequently, you’ll need some sort of a membership, it’s it’s very affordable. What you’re able to do is you can share with people by email, or you can copy a link into a much bigger email if you don’t want to have to put every single email address and the minute somebody gets the email and they’re invited to the mural. They’re going to have access to this particular mural. They might have to do a username and password takes a minute, but that means that simultaneously when they’re looking at this mural, they will see the sheet and if you ask them to contribute and to add a stick keynote on a particular topic, they’re able to do that. And if you have 10, people working simultaneously, all 10 of them can do it. So it gives you not just a visual perspective, but it also allows you to be very, very productive. In these online calls. When we have situations where only one person is talking at a time, there’s only so much work, you can get done, right, and you’ve got 10 people thinking together and contributing, you get much more output. That’s very cool. So this would be people can be doing this synchronously at the same time, or just over the course of the week, different team members could go in at different times,
Will Bachman 05:36
except login and do it. So you can share one mural. And a mural is just one big page or can a mural have sort of multiple pages and multiple things going on in it.
Hannah Bersen 05:48
So the first of all, the mural can be one big page, it can actually even be extended, if you needed to do a monster project, right? You could make it go on forever, right? That’s a three times that’s that’s you can, you can copy templates, so this doesn’t give you the option to add 10 different templates into one Miro, you may need to go out, grab it and paste it back in, okay, if you want to have that capability. But you are able to cut and paste things in you are able to import files, you can import images. If you want to export say you’ve done a whole bunch of work and you want a bunch of people to see it. Yeah, but they don’t necessarily need to go into it, you want to paint it, you know, put it in a PowerPoint slide, there’s an export function. Okay, that gives you the option for how you want to have that work exported and shared. So not everybody has to come and mess with the
Will Bachman 06:50
actual mirror. Okay, good. So that that’s helpful for me. Now I got the overview. So let’s, um, and that’s, by the way, it was an amazing list of templates that that you see in this tool. I mean, it’s almost worth kind of, for anybody listening to this show to just get a mural subscription and check out all these different templates. It’s a pretty good way of learning different kind of consulting or facilitation frameworks. There’s, like I saw a team kick off the hero’s journey. There’s other exercises, there’s hundreds of different templates in there. Yeah,
Hannah Bersen 07:23
I think they’re excellent curators. And they’ve been very thoughtful about the templates they’ve brought in.
Will Bachman 07:28
So maybe you could walk us through a couple examples to give us a practical sense of how this tool could be used in a facilitation session.
Hannah Bersen 07:37
Okay. Well, I’ll start with one of my go twos just because it works like a charm every time. So this is a design thinking too, called rose Thorn bud comes from the Boy Scouts. So it’s been around for a while. And mural has a very well done template, and again, to your point, with lots of explanations of how the tool works, and how to think about it. And so in this particular case, I have a friend who is also an independent consulting person, she actually has a company now. And she wanted her consultants to be exposed to this type of tool and design thinking. And she wanted me to show them through an exercise and she said, you’d have an hour. And there are 16 people in my group. So I started with this template. The good thing for me is it takes no prep time on my part, I can do a favor for a friend. And it only takes me the hour that I’m contributing, but it’s a lot of value to them. So in this particular case, I asked each of the 16, people actually doubled the number of circles to grab a spot. So there were a particular participant. And I asked them, I actually gave them a set of nine of these sticky notes. And I said, think about the internship program that you’re in there. We’re halfway through an internship program over the summer. And tell us three things that are rosy for you that make you feel good about the internship. And then tell us three things that you don’t actually like about what’s going on. And then three things where you’ve seen some potential and you’d like to see more of it. And so all 16 did their stuff together. There’s even soundtracks playing the music while they’re all working for eight to 10 minutes. That much time. As they were doing their work. I was scanning to see what themes were emerging. Some of them were talking about their connections, some of them were talking about communication. Some of them were talking about program content. So I took sticky notes, and I put some labels or category headers, and then I asked them, because I don’t have time to read all of them and do it myself. They helped me. I said to them, You know, I see some themes, tell me if I’m missing anything. If you wrote something down about the content of the program, move your sticky notes into The program content area. Okay, so then everybody is doing that together. And within a minute we have our cluster showing for
Will Bachman 10:09
show us how if you were one of the attendees, how you could write a green sticky note, and just short, just so
Hannah Bersen 10:17
I’m an attendee, that’s fine. So I’m going to need to make it a bit bigger, so I can see what I’m writing. And I’m going to say, I really like our weekly team huddles, that’s working well, for me, I wish we did more of them. Okay. All right. So everybody’s writing it in their own voice, that they’re either doing full sentences or not. And then when that’s done, they’re going to be able to move that themselves into the cluster where it belongs. Got it. So we did all of that work, and they clustered the items. And just visually, you can look at these clusters. And you can immediately get a sense of where the hotspots are. When I was learning consulting back in the day, you would interview and they would, you would always say these are the positives in one column. And these are the negatives in another column. And it turns out that life is more nuanced than that. And we need to be able to look at a category with the positive and the negative together. And that’s kind of hard for us and not binary way of thinking. But this allows us to see that communication is basically an issue, even though there are a few good things that were done. And there’s some hot some nice things that she could do more of, for example. But what I like about this, too, is that when the person who needs this content leaves the meeting, they have real data points, they have real insights from people who they’ve been working with. So the way we wrap this up typically is often the colors tell the story for us. Sometimes though, you actually want to take a vote you want you want to leave the room with an aligned perspective on what the group wants leadership to focus on first. Okay, so to start to do that mural has a voting function, which is up here. Yep. And so I would say to everybody in the room, let’s start voting, I’m going to give you three votes. So you go ahead and vote. And say it for me, because I’m the only one who’s active right now, I would say I think program content, industry knowledge and communication on my hotspots, okay, I can only see my votes, I can’t see where the crowd is going. When this is finished, we get the summary. And we see who has gotten what votes and how the person who takes us away is going to use it.
Will Bachman 12:45
That’s valuable. So I saw I can definitely see but showed how you can use morale to do a common sort of facilitation exercise where you have people in the old days, put things on actual sticky notes, and then put them up up on the board, maybe rearrange them into categories, and then vote on them. So got that walk us through maybe one other example of a typical use case that would be different in kind. So okay, that’s like a idea generation ID categorization. What’s another use of?
Hannah Bersen 13:20
Well, I’ll show you I’ve got maybe two more to show you. But the one I’m going to show you here is how you can blend your sort of PowerPoint concepts with an interactive session. Okay. So this was something that we did for the executives at one of my clients whoops, got the name. And so this particular client was thinking about how to build their strategy around a particular aspect of the business. So they’ve got their vision mission, they’ve got their strategies, they’ve got the problem space they’re working in, they’ve got that we were explaining to leadership, this is how we’ve come up with the areas we want to work in. There’s a lot of design thinking work and murals that go behind all of this. But we didn’t need to show that we just needed to show where we landed. So that top part is this is the summary of the work that we have, and what we want you to know about why we’re prioritizing certain areas. And then you’re probably curious about what we’re doing about it. So also in mural, we built this project portfolio, we’re using the tenets of design thinking, saying we know you need to understand, create and deliver. And these projects are at different stages. Some projects started in delivery, because you told us just to do it. And other projects you’ve told us to explore. Here’s our portfolio. So that’s a big brain dump. Obviously, we did it a little slower than that. And then we had executives from the different parts of the business in the room, and we wanted to engage them in this content. And so we asked them a question we said you’ve heard all of this, we were a little bit of an outlier in the type of work this company to Additionally does, how would you help us from your area of work? What do you think one of the questions we should be asking you when we come in for our one hour meeting. So if you’re in sales, put the item that you think we should be focusing on closest to the middle of the circle. So sales says, oops, again, too much information. But sales says, you know, for example, you need to think about this, or you need to think about that. Similarly, the CEO had a perspective, the marketing folks had a perspective. So they did this exercise themselves quietly. And then we could abstract back and say, this is great content, for how we can continue our conversations with you. And, again, we have this opportunity of of getting multiple people to contribute at the same time. So in a short amount of time, we come out with a lot of input. And the other thing is that it’s a much more engaging way to work than just being on a call with PowerPoints. So when we do these sessions, they tend to go a lot faster for people. And they all feel like it’s a little bit fun to move your sticky note around, they all feel like they’ve been exposed to something new. Okay.
Will Bachman 16:12
It seems to me like this is very much designed with the, with the metaphor, the idea of, if you were working together in the same room, these are the kinds of things that would be on the wall, I guess, thus, the term mural, or wall for one. So I suppose in some cases, it might not be. So some of these are like very interactive, but maybe there are some that are more like, you might want to have your overall project status on the wall. Right, so everybody can see it. And people can move stuff, not so much a brainstorming session, but more of a, here’s where we are in the project. Here’s the current issues list. Here’s the current, you know, a critical path that goes right and
Hannah Bersen 16:58
this foot, actually, we’re doing that on another, another client right now, we’re sort of working with a mural to create project timelines. Okay. Right. So, you know, here’s a template if you want to start moving things around, and they’re giving you a little bit of a guide for how they think you should think about it. Yeah. And you know, things that are completed versus to do. So
Will Bachman 17:20
what would you say is the best way? For someone who’s now excited by this, buy this podcast episode and wants to get into it? What’s the best way for learning mural? Do you think? Is there some YouTube videos to watch? Or is it really just dive in and start doing it? Or is there a good overview course? What’s the best way to get up to speed
Hannah Bersen 17:42
and neural actually does a good job of that themselves. Okay, so they have several videos that show you and I actually keep looking for time so that I can learn more of the features, there’s so much more beyond even when I use that, that they’ve made available. They also have something called a consulting network that I don’t completely understand. But apparently, I’m Florida have access to the tool. So for example, when I go into my company, I have, you know, workspace members, I can let lots of different clients come in and work with me. So I sort of have a mega membership to it, which is something I think that can be explored. I’m not entirely sure how I got it, but I got it. So they definitely, you know, it’s a global company that’s working very actively in this space. So it’s, the capabilities are probably far more robust. And I’m even exposing to you,
Will Bachman 18:39
yeah, well, and there’s that tab there, right there that says learn. So imagine that there. Right, right. So how to how to videos and so forth on
Hannah Bersen 18:48
exactly what is it? How does it work all 19 articles, you’ll have plenty of plenty of learning.
Will Bachman 18:54
Alright, fantastic. And as you mentioned, there’s this consultant, option for mural, where I imagine that they give you I don’t know what the pricing difference is on it. But but probably mural once consultants do use it, because consultants then go out and basically get clients to sign up for it. So for consultants, and just you know, listening to the show, when you go to mural dot CEO, check out that consultant option for signing up.
Hannah Bersen 19:27
Yeah. And I think the one maybe last thing depending on how much time we have that I want to share is you asked about the ability to show multiple murals on one page or walk us through that. So I just wanted to this is a slightly bigger project where the client was in fact, a consulting company is a consulting company who was struggling with their knowledge management problem which every consulting company has. And so they said, you know, we don’t have a lot of time, we can only give you interviews And three hours of our leadership teams time. And we want you to spit out some sort of direction for us for knowledge management, we don’t really know where to start. So this mural, which is, you know, full size one is the summary slide of all the different pieces of work that we did, so that they can see the full story. And then if they actually want to go in and see everything in more detail, we can either make it bigger, or go to that individual mural that was copied into here. And so this one, over three hours, which is also a big, a big factor here is how much work you can get done in such a short amount of time, with such high quality and then that magical alignment, and I was involved in it. And I had something to do with the output, feeling that that is often absent. So in this one I interviewed as most consultants do actually sat down and did interviews, but I codifies what I learned from the interviews into that rosebud throne tool that we had. And I showed, as a result of my interviews, the the eight people I’ve spoken to what their answers looked like, and in which categories, they have mended. So they could see what they had said and what others have said on related topics. And then I did a trick, which I may not, but I think it’s important when you give people a lot of information that you need them to consume, in a certain amount of time, like read all the sticky notes, I need to give them an exercise to do while they’re doing that. So I said, read them. And if you find something that resonates with you put a border around that sticky note, which is a very easy function. Okay, so I could see what the most important ones were. I also reminded them using prefer persona profiles, who they’re designing this for, they love designing it for themselves, they’re designing it for their consultants, they junior and the senior consultants have different needs from them. So we finished that exercise we did the voting that I showed you. And then we added another exercise where we said, okay, we’ve come out with five or six areas, how do we think about them? Where do we start? And there’s a great design thinking tool called importance difficulty matrix that we used to line up the five areas in terms of impact first on the x axis, and then to raise the map in terms of difficulty, how hard is it going to be to fix this so that we could get our matrix of highest impact, lowest difficulty, that’s where we start these a little bit harder but worth doing. These ones are not worth your strategic unless you have the ones that are low impact and very difficult we leave behind. It just gives us a relative mappings is not scientific. It’s one topic relative to another.
Will Bachman 22:49
And with and with salaries, were you able to was that done through some sort of voting process where people could No,
Hannah Bersen 22:56
actually thank you for asking. This is the one one of the few opportunities where we encourage debate. So if we’re lining them up based on the votes, and somebody doesn’t agree, and thinks that one aspect is actually has more impact than another, we want to hear that that’s productive discussion, and we land where we land. But that is an opportunity for people to chime in and say what they think,
Will Bachman 23:21
yeah, well, if you if you did want to use a voting tool for that we showed earlier of like, vote for your three highest priority ones, is there also a tool where you could say, okay, we’re going to go through each one of these and everybody vote, you know, one through five to score this on some dimension. And then like, it would average it for you and place it where you wanted it to go based on the average.
Hannah Bersen 23:43
You know, it probably does, but I haven’t used it yet. All right, I found it yet. It was probably this way of working as well is very directional, you know, all the design thinking stuff is I just want to keep moving relative to what I was doing before in the right direction. But the one other challenge I had as a as not a pure design thinking consultant but somebody who’s done other consulting as well as how do you integrate data and knowledge into this type of work. So now I know what the areas are. I also know that none of us are actually experts in knowledge management, but the internet is and there’s a lot of content about how to do it and what the definition should be. So I did some work on that and I found some best practices and put them up in each of the categories I said you know, if you want to know what they say about ownership, for example, they say dr knowledge management right from the top, you should know that and then these are the ones with the boxes around them that you said were important. Now take it to the next level and create your challenge statements using the How might we format which is design thinking favorite way of talking about things, okay, so, so here we have you know, here’s here’s where the I landed, here’s your prioritization, here’s your how my ways. And we don’t have to keep going. But basically, there were a few more tools that we used, you can tell me if you want details, that mural set up for us very easily. So we could go from, these are your challenges, these are your ideas after brainstorming, you had too many. So let’s refine them and come down to a lower number. And even with that lower number, we want a little bit more direction of where to start. And so you can, you know, the one thing I’ve learned to say, when you work in mural, or you do design thinking with clients is to tell them that it’s going to feel uncomfortable, and it’s going to feel fast. Because they’re not used to working at this pace. Yeah, but at the end of it, they come out with, you know, a lot of output. And a lot of output. A cnn moment here, exactly. She needs a charger for her to go. No, it’s okay. It’s okay. The human moment. It’s awesome. Yeah. Okay. You know, we have 100 charges in the house. So, so I think it’s, you know, the pace is intense. And I do tend to push to get a lot out because I want to be able to show the arc. Yeah. And they are exhausted at the end, maybe I do too much. But at the end of the three hours, they first of all have all this content, if they ever want to go back and look at all their challenge statements. They’ve got them. Yeah, yeah. And it’s very easily accessible and shareable.
Will Bachman 26:45
Okay, very powerful. So I can, I can see how this could be a really powerful to use on a workshop when you’re trying to get work done, particularly virtually. So, you know, if you are trying to do this, and like a Google document or something you could try to, you know, hack something together. But this is much, much more fluid, much more visually appealing. So, Hannah, if folks wanted to reach out to you or find out more about the work of your firm, we can include some links in the show notes, and you can share them here. Where should people go to find out more about what you do, and to connect?
Hannah Bersen 27:28
Well, my company’s name is salt Collaboratory. The salt is all the places that I’ve lived in the world like South Africa, and Amsterdam and London, and Toronto, and television. But it’s also because I really believe that the ability to work this way with people is critical to our success as consultants as the world progresses, I think when clients ask us a question, and we think we need to sit in our office and answer it and bring them the answer, that time in my opinion is passing because we need more input and more diverse perspectives in the solutions that we put together. And we need to become masterful in how we pull that together, and how we help clients really believe that it’s their own idea. So they are going to move forward with it. So that’s that’s sort of the gist of what I do using mostly design thinking but other techniques as well. And you can reach me at hello at Salt Collaboratory, calm or at the website, just stop flt and then Collaboratory, whatever you like.
Will Bachman 28:34
And I’m happy to chat to people and share my passion around this. And thank you so much. And we will include those links in the show notes. So mural, m u r a l.co. Check it out. It’s a powerful tool. All of a sudden, I’m hearing lots of people using it. It’s not totally new. They have 100 employees. They got a big round of funding in January before COVID hit, I think something like $13 million. So check out your old CO and go visit salt Collaboratory. To learn more about Hannah’s work. Hannah, thank you so much for being on the show today. Thank you. Thanks for having me. It was fun.