MADE for U of T | Ep. 03 | Matt Everson

Related people and/or projects: Introducing M.A.D.E. for U of T

In the third episode of MADE for U of T, we hear from Matt Everson, a Director of Innovation from one of Toronto’s Big Four professional service firms who talked about using new collaboration tools for virtual participation.  If you are interested in ways to engage students in the online environment, read more about which tools you can use for asynchronous discussions or designing student learning activities.

Listen to the podcast: Learning about online collaboration tools with Matt Everson


Or read the transcript:

Prefer to read rather than listen to the podcast? Below is a transcript of the interview.  It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Matt Everson (ME): My name is Matt Everson and I'm the Director of Innovation for growth strategy and it is a essentially a design thinking workshop/brainstorming service that we provide on the front end for our client enablement, to "unstick" sort of mission critical items or market trouble that people are working with and tackling and really start to work through ideas together or through problems and let them know that we can do this together in a digital collaborative space.  There's no judgement and it's all about say, opinions, to help.  Everybody here, if you'd like I just dropped in a share link, so you can jump into the platform and check it out.  So that's what we do - to be able to help tease out really cool new ideas to be able to help clients get over those humps and really start making some real change for digital transformation, given the current marketing era that we're in now.

Inga Breede (IB): Your program was originally intended to be an in person experience.  What types of technology and software did you use to continue engaging with clients virtually?

ME: So, we started with what we were supposed to do, and I'm sure everybody had a "supposed to do" list before March 2020.  We had a $10 million facility that was going to be designed to be able to  work with people in live action, with all kinds of new like multi-touch tech and all kinds of new, cool data, processing engines and stuff like that.  We were approved on March 8 of 2020 and then literally Friday March 13 we were parked in terms of build because the world changed as we knew it.  So we had to learn how to pivot really quickly with some of the the the information and tools that we had, and one of the things that.  Our program was really big on this in-person sort of collaboration elements.  So we went hard and fast looking for new platforms, that would allow us to create a digital canvas that would allow us to do things.  And what you see here and what everybody's sort of exploring is a wireframe sort of example that we frequently use with people to walk through what it's about and it's worked out really well in terms of being able to engage and follow things through.

IB: Can you tell us how you've used Mural for brainstorming and collaborative sessions?

ME: Right so, I could probably give you a few examples in terms of how we're working with clients right now.  One example is we're using the platform to be able to understand cross teams and also cross firm or cross country what the different experiences are or what the different feedback might be.  One that everybody may be aware of, but may not know the intricate-like details would be the new NAFTA.  What that looks like for trade and customs across Canada, the US and Mexico is wildly different and will be incredibly different over the next 2, 3, 5 years as things really reshape the market in terms of what these three countries do to work togethe.  And that brings in all kinds of different people and we pull them into this platform together.  So while we may work in Teams or in zZOOM, there's that visual account of terms of what we do together.  There's also this element of like "okay everybody let's talk..." if I were to summon everybody to.  What are your session aims and objectives today? We know what we're talking about in terms of an agenda, but what are you looking to get out of it other than "no idea what I'm doing"?  It's really one of the strongest pieces of this is, that it's not "boxed," as it were, it allows us to go across these teams and across these countries to really get a much larger scope in terms of understanding and how we can deliver together as a firm, for our clients, to their advantage.

IB: I like seeing everyone interacting right now!  I like that feature of being able to "summon" everyone when you are focusing in on something.  Is it always in this platform?  Are you taking them out of it sometimes?

ME: We do break out of this sometimes, and I know that sounds silly interms of breaking frame, but we will often have a separate tab that would be open, because we incorporate our own data and platform demos into storytelling elements. While it may not be specifically to say "sell the program" it may help just in terms of change perspective on live data segmentation.  We've got an example that we can dive into for Piccadilly Circus in London.  What are we talking about in terms of input data sources and how do we get to know and for more information on that side, as we kind of go forward and it helps people understandor just think a little bit differently, and then we can all come back.  We give them a step by step run through what that looks like and we call them back "Okay everybody if you can go back to the actual Mural platform and canvas that we're working in" will give everybody a minute to jump back in.

IB: What is the one tip you would give to someone who is interested in using a platform like Mural?

ME: It can be intimidating to have a large white rectangle to be like:  how do we populate this with things that makes sense?  And more often than not, speaking from the Mural side of things, they have a huge template library that you can pull from.  All of it can be kind of cut up and rebuilt in ways that you'd like.  So you can go in and start to simply rebuild and play.  So go and see what they have.  You know, ask questions in terms of what you'd like to be able to deliver for your audience, whether that's students or internal leadership or an existing team.  What do you want to cover?  And play with the different templates that they have because a lot of it's been done for you and you can just go into different levels of customization based on your level of comfort.  So don't knock yourself out, there are tons of different stuff or templates that you can play with, within a deep library that will help you engage with any of your audience.

IB: What do you facilitator say about the experience of using this tool versus using others?

ME: I'd say 90% of the teams globally use this huge Mural specifically, but there are two in Europe that use Miro, which is also just as flexible, does a whole bunch of really interesting stuff in terms of template and engagement as well.  And, arguably, in some cases, the European teams using them like that more because you can scribe on it, you can do all kinds of interesting live writing on it, whereas this one's much more predetermined: the format or the formula and the journey and then have people come in and point and click.  We tried Microsoft Whiteboard and we just didn't feel you were getting the same level of customization when it came to what we needed.  The branding was incredibly fussy, if that makes sense because we try to brand it in terms of the client who we're working with specifically and that was, although it sounds like a very creative element, also important to the client that we're paying attention to.

IB: Do you see you and the team continuing to use collaboration tools like this if there was a return to full-time in-person work?

ME: Good question, we do and we've been open, oh, my gosh over a year and three months now, and as everything starts to open up, specifically in Toronto and Ontario, we're already being asked to do this hybrid.  So that would mean somebody in person in our office, but then we have to engage with a group that's online that may be not in the GTA specifically or is not comfortable with coming in person, so we would have to do both.  Interesting pieces - this fully works on say a touchscreen as well, so that's great, but it is skirting the line in terms of engagement, and client experience gets a little bit interesting.  So we'd have to have one person live to be able to walk through all these different points, but also a second person online, to be able to field any of the chat questions that come up or any tech questions on the fly.  So I can see us using this in perpetuity until we feel comfortable just being strict in-person, which I don't think will happen anytime soon.

IB: What kind of barriers have your participants faced when using Mural and how did you overcome them?
ME:  It's interesting, some of it's security enabled and, client specific, I can tell you, everybody that I work with within the firm, we all have the same security access, all the requirements are cleared, so we can actively engage together.  But on the client side we've had hardware issues where they may have laptops or computers that are just not current.  Give that as something to do as a checklist for the client three days beforehand: "Please ensure that you have this..." We do a browser check with everybody just to ensure that they can use this in Teams, in Chrome, you can use this on Edge, you can use this on Firefox, and so on and so forth, just to be sure that everybody's in a good place to us.  And anything else, we make sure that everyone's got the right screen and we take the time upfront similar to teach everybody.
IB: Thank you Matt for taking the time to walk us through an experience on Mural, we appreciate the time.  Thank you everyone, as always, for joining us and for contributing your questions.  I hope you have a great day.
ME: Thanks for having me, thanks everybody, great to meet you all!

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