A Guide To Crowd Workshops

Bringing together a room of people around cultural insight is great, but it's no easy job. Here’s a run-through on how we do it at Crowd...

It’s safe to say we’ve banked our fair share of workshop experience. Effective at any stage during a research project, we use them to lay cultural foundations and align teams around trends; to aid innovation processes and fuel product development; or to define strategic direction and land insight within a business. Whatever the workshop, it’s important that everyone, and everything, is rooted in cultural understanding from the start.

Clearly, there’s not one-size-fits-all. Different objectives will dictate the workshop structure and design, but we thought it worth getting down the most useful pointers nonetheless. When prepared carefully, there’s huge potential to be found within a room engaged in focussed, intensive discussion. Our job is to make sure everyone is engaged in the correct way, and that everyone leaves the room with solutions, a sense of ownership, and a clear path forward. Here’s some of the ways that we do that:

Aims and objectives

First up, it’s really important to understand the objectives. Sounds obvious, sure, but we start by asking exactly what it is we want to achieve. Aligning teams around cultural thinking requires a very different workshop to, say, coming up with a string of product innovations. Setting clear objectives also means that there’s something to measure success by at the end of the day (getting the room involved in this makes sure everyone leaves with a sense of satisfaction).

Equally important is understanding the audience. While it’s hard to get to know the entire attendee list, working out everyone’s relationship to the project, and to each other, helps identify goals and obstacles. Ideally, we try meet clients beforehand to gain an understanding of the group’s knowledge – there’s nothing worse than trying to educate experts or overestimating the inexperienced. We also like to put out an invitation letter, or a teaser video, or even a pre-task to get attendees thinking about the topic beforehand.  

Tasks and materials

Next, picking the right exercises is crucial. Simplicity is key, and every task – whether it’s sharing stories and identifying needs, or getting rid of negativity and barriers – must ladder up to the overall objective. We’re also big fans of workshop stimulus and find it really useful to ignite discussion and focus thinking. Innovation sessions might need materials that people can rip up and rebuild, while an audience immersion may require something more polished and complete. We’ve made all-sorts here at Crowd: magazines, stackable postcards, life-size portraits, prototyping materials to get people thinking with their hands – even an immersive installation of a teenage boy’s bedroom (complete with old pizza boxes and dirty socks).

Depending on the objective, we might bring some fresh perspectives into the conversation, too. Experts can aid with academic understanding, influencers can help steer topics, and we often call upon our CrowdStars network to join the party as well. If it makes sense within the workshop; the more brains around a topic, the better.

Structure and design

A successful session also has a lot to do with the flow. It’s good to mix between passive and active activities, broken up with plenty of breathing space. Speaking of which, we’ve been known to incorporate yoga and mindfulness training into our workshops – it really helps with concentration and keeping the energy levels up. Breaks are definitely not to be underestimated. We take care not to bombard people with information by mixing in a lot of brainstorming and discussion, and debate whether the conversation should be facilitator-led (good for working toward a specific outcome), or more natural and moved along by a moderator. Advance planning goes without saying (don’t forget the catering!), but we also create a checklist to correct any issues nearer the time. Are all the materials ready? Are the agendas printed? What about name-tags, camera-equipment, are there enough snacks?!

Then, it’s action time. At Crowd, we like to experiment with creative ways to capture the day. We film important sections and take photographs throughout, but we also work with live illustrators and creative writers to sketch out ideas and record details in inventive ways. This not only documents the workshop, but also provides great content that we can use within our project deliverables too. Win win.

If you’d like to find out more about Crowd workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com to have a chat and hopefully we’ll be workshopping with you in no time.

Crowd DNA’s Dr Matilda Andersson talked social media and the delicate subject of age at the MRS Social Media Summit 2018...

Age will never disappear (sadly), but as our interests and characters continue to blur, we’re no longer as defined by our DOB. Traditional milestones are happening later; people are working beyond retirement, even the distinct experience of being a teen is coming to an end. We’re moving into a culture of agelessness, where the number of years we’ve notched up really is just a number.

This is the subject that Crowd’s Matilda Andersson tackled at yesterday’s MRS Social Media Summit. Focussing on the huge impact that social media has on this shift, she presented the following contributors:

Bringing families closer together

It’s far from true that only young people are addicted to social media – we see plenty of older generations getting on board too. Matilda used an example from her own mum’s Instagram – a snap of a recent cycling holiday – to show how tech is creating a cross-generational space that allows them to joke, learn and venture outside their usual mother-daughter role. She also explained how platforms like Whatsapp and Messenger For Kids help pair young and old family members, making sure no one is left out.

Matilda's mum on Instagram
Matilda's mum on Instagram
Uniting around shared passions

Social media is a level playing-field when it comes to age. While previously confined to local geographies to find like-minded people, now curation platforms like Pinterest help those with similar passions to unite irrespective of age. Matilda used other examples, including TasteBud and the increase in hyperlocal Facebook groups, to show a rising connection across generational boundaries. Young, old, new; everyone can take part in online discussion.

Building icons for all ages

In perhaps the area where most age barriers can be broken, Matilda highlighted how an influencer’s field of impact isn’t limited to their own age bracket. Referencing Lyn Slater (who, at 63, is making waves in the fashion blogging world) and Coco Princess Pink (a six-year-old Japanese style icon), she celebrated the fact that social media builds icons from, and for, all ages.

Online dating for everyone

It’s definitely not only young people who meet online. The number of 45+-year-olds on dating sites keeps on growing; in fact, between 2013 and 2015, the number doubled (according to Pew research), but it doesn’t all have to be romance related. Matilda also presented MeetMe – a friendship-based platform offering people of different ages the chance to chat – to show how social media can be used to be, well, genuinely social.

MeetMe
MeetMe
Answering the golden question: how do we help brands stay culturally relevant to an ageless audience? Matilda offered some ideas around behavioural data, social listening, and cross-generational interviews, before ending with the assertion that cultural codes need to be redefined way beyond age.

We’ll be sending out a download of Matilda’s report soon. In the meantime, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.

Crowd DNA Promotions

Major whoops all-round for the latest set of promotions at Crowd DNA...

It’s always great seeing Crowd people hitting the next level – and therefore adding to the first-rate thinking and creativity we can offer our clients – and we’re delighted to confirm a number of promotions in London and New York.

Joey Zeelen and Tom Eccles step up to become senior consultants in London and New York respectively. Also in London, Aaron Garcia De Alba and Essi Mikkola make the move to consultant level.

Well done all. Hugely well deserved.

TAKE-OUTS FROM THE TAKEAWAY

An overview of our work for Just Eat. Carefully designed ethnographic methods to build customer empathy in hard-to-reach environments…

Operating in the increasingly competitive place where tech meets home delivery, Just Eat reached out to Crowd DNA to help optimise the brand’s relationship with takeaway outlets – specifically in the UK and Spain – and their owners. It’s a tough space to research. Takeaway owners are busy people, not particularly inclined to divulge the inner workings of their businesses.

We embarked on extensive research with 16 takeaway businesses in the UK and Spain, first working hard to build relationships through phone interviews. With an important level of trust gained, this was followed by an ethnographic phase, in which our teams spent time in the restaurants and outlets, witnessing how each operated, the main challenges they face and where digital services can provide advantage. It was a challenging process, but less in-situ research techniques wouldn’t have got remotely close to the detailed understanding that we arrived at here.

Capturing very rich and real narratives to share in our workshop sessions with Just Eat stakeholders helped this data-driven brand to craft striking new ways to connect with takeaway providers.

Exciting developments in our Hoxton Square HQ...

Some big changes afoot in Crowd DNA’s London office. Company founder Andy Crysell moves into a new group managing director role, overseeing development across the offices, exploring growth opportunities and focusing on agency innovations and communications.

Dr Matilda Andersson is promoted from her previous role of insight & innovation director to managing director of Crowd DNA in London, taking over full responsibility for the agency’s main office and its 30 strong team.

Elyse Pigram joins the business in London as insight & innovation director. She previously worked at RDSi in the UK and, for seven years, at GALKAL in Australia, where key clients included Netfmuch-deservedy.

These exciting changes, including much deserved promotions, pave the way for the next stage of Crowd DNA. They set us up perfectly for taking the London office to a higher level, while we simultaneously explore new markets, growth plans and fresh ways to provide culturally-relevant strategy and insights to our global clients. 2018, here we come!

Brighten up your week with the latest download from Crowd DNA, this one offering pointers on how to bring more value and innovation to online communities...

At our recent Rise event in London, Crowd DNA director of communities Sabrina Qureshi rebooted the topic of online communities and gave it a good refresh. Debunking common assumptions of what online communities are, and what they look like, Sabrina provided new ideas around themes like innovation, leveraging different audience types, ensuring impact – and, of course, the importance of culture and insights.

For those who missed the event or would like to find out more about Crowd Communities, check out our downloadable pdf here.

Rise: Online Communities

Crowd DNA’s communities director Sabrina Qureshi refreshed and re-booted the topic of online communities at our latest Rise event in London...

We’re not actually new to communities here at Crowd DNA – we’ve been running them since the beginning in lots of different shapes and sizes (and countries). Even so, in typical Crowd style, we like to go beyond the obvious and explore new ways in which they can meet commercial needs. 

At our latest Rise event in London, communities director Sabrina Qureshi took the topic of online communities and gave it good shake. Debunking assumptions of ‘what a community looks like’, Sabrina provided quick fire ideas around themes like innovation, the need for flexible audiences and socialising community insights to ensure impact.

While communities can, of course, be used to talk directly to customers, Sabrina explained that the real joy comes from recruiting and engaging leading-edge or hard to reach audiences – different members who can be brought into the mix to ignite discussion and add new cultural references. By reframing communities as cultural insight hubs, we can uncover ongoing trends and insights from across the globe, and discover lots of exciting opportunities along the way.

 

Sabrina in action at Rise: Online Communities
Sabrina in action at Rise: Online Communities

An editorialised version of the presentation will be sent out soon. In the meantime, here’s our Crowd Communities intro video:

IRL With Clients

We've packaged up our Crowd IRL thinking in a nice new report format. Email if you'd like a copy...

Crowd IRL is how we get out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people; helping clients escape the confines of simply attending the debrief presentation or the viewing facility.

In this report, we’ve gathered learnings from across the Crowd DNA team, exploring and celebrating our Crowd IRL method. Send an email to crowdIRL@crowdDNA.com if you’d like to receive a copy and/or discuss ideas for how to make a project of this kind work for your team.