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Mariano Suarez-Battan

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In the lead up to #DTTTGlobal, we spoke to Mariano Suarez-Battan, CEO of MURAL to learn more about how they are pioneering remote design thinking. As avid users of MURAL ourselves, we champion the use of design thinking methods and templates as part of our Launchpad subscription. We are really pleased to welcome Aaron Richman from MURAL to the stage in Brussels on 30th November & 1st December to share some insights into how major brands leverage design thinking methods and collaborate effectively through remote design. MURAL enable teams from companies such as IBM or IDEO to work in digital workspaces for visual collaboration, inspiration and innovation.

My name is Mariano Suarez-Battan, I’m an entrepreneur from Argentina. Have a previous life working on video games and the company we founded ended up inside Disney. I’m now in San Francisco, leading MURAL. We started the company because we believe that teams would benefit from working as design thinkers and the tech available wasn’t great to enable virtual collaboration. We want to inspire, enhance and connect all creative workers globally.

Pioneering Remote Design

I’d argue that Design Thinking, Lean and Agile have been revolutionizing how people work creatively. Problems are better framed and solved in creative and efficient ways. The issue with these methods is that they are generally based on in-person workshops and the reality of most teams is that they are global. Too much travel (if the budget is there), pictures of whiteboards and loss of momentum after the engaging workshops.

MURAL’s contribution to the design thinking, lean and agile movements is giving the possibilities to achieve the same results, but without the need of being colocated. This includes software that makes you feel as if you were in the same project room, but also the best practices and training to give the team “remote creative work confidence”. We believe that working remotely is a core competency for the modern creative worker and most of us don’t excel at it.

MURAL Overview

MURAL is a digital workspace that enables design thinking, lean and agile for distributed teams. Global teams use MURAL to bridge the distance between team members and get their research, synthesis, and ideas mapped in their virtual canvases.

What do you generally see in these canvases? Research, Brainstorming and Affinity maps, Persona and Experience Maps, UX flows, Meeting notes, Planning timelines, Retrospectives, Business model designs. We aim to support the most popular visual frameworks so that you can have everything in one place. In addition to the visualization and diagramming tools, we have a set of collaboration tools to help teams orchestrate their creative work.

MURAL Screenshot

MURAL's Evolution

MURAL started to solve the same problem we see many teams face today: I was working with a distributed, interdisciplinary team to design a video game, and we needed a place to gather information and share ideas in a visual way. We started MURAL to serve as a virtual workspace where we could exchange feedback and make decisions on next steps.

Back then, our know-how of methods, as well as the maturity of these methods in the marketplace were nascent. Now they are being widely used and we’ve become the prime tool for people working on these, remotely.

In addition to our evolution to supporting the design thinking, lean and agile methods, we’ve become “Enterprise Ready”. We’ve certified SOC2 to make sure our reliability and security are top of the line. We also have a great Customer Success and Support team that helps people in the enterprise with their transformations and questions.

Not just a Tool for Designers

We believe everyone is a designer, as in a change-maker. The work done in MURAL is the more abstract one. Design is defined as how something works and that’s the definition that we care about. There are other great products on the market to help you prototype, test and deliver products. We help early on to make sure that the right problems are addressed and that teas are aligned with the solutions to be developed.

Regardless, we also design the product for “professional designers” to be able to bring in less visual, and even tech-savvy people into a fun and easy environment they can feel free to collaborate and create.

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Examples of Design Thinking

There are plenty of examples that we share on our blog: blog.mural.co. IBM has been a great case for use (webinar with Doug Powell)... all the LUMA Methods are great (webinar recap) and something that I’m very proud of is when other collaboration tool developers use our software, like in the case of Trello here.

Brands Using MURAL

Intuit is a good case study in the way they’ve managed to scale quality service design across a global organization. With a customer service team based in the Philippines, it proved difficult for them to align U.S.-based employees on the cause of hiccups throughout the customer service journey as well as better empathize with customers they don’t necessarily see and hear every day. Using a digital service blueprint, the distributed teams could work together in tandem to identify pain points and generate better solutions together. You can read more about Intuit’s work in MURAL here.

Learnings from Working with Remote Design Thinking

It’s VERY hard to work remotely. It’s harder to do it in highly collaborative creative work. Teams need to build “Remote Work Confidence” and invest in observing best practices, sharing them internally and provide room to practice. IBM Design did a great job on this topic.

And of course, the most powerful learning is that the brands that are able to implement design thinking remotely are better able to scale innovation across the company, while also reducing unnecessary spends in terms of travel.

Biggest Opportunity - Remote Design Thinking

Speed in making the right decisions. Design thinking helps us focus on the right problems to solve and achieve the best outcomes. Now, the process can be a little slow, especially for distributed teams.

We had a case in a large telecommunications firm in which they told us that they used to have a type of project that typically took them 2 weeks because they had to coordinate travel to be together and work through a workshop. Key stakeholders were hard to schedule. After going digital, they were able to find a time that works for them all to collaborate within 2 days, and they were able to achieve the same results. 12 days is a lot of time… imagine if the product they were going to launch would make $250k per day.

Why should attendees not miss MURAL's talk?

Design Thinking is changing how we approach customer experience, yet we are limiting its power by relying on co-location to work in this creative way. If you need to scale the design thinking culture in your organization, we’ll share best practices, walk through success cases and most importantly, how to get your team to maximize its remote work confidence.

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