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Our Swarming has gone virtual. The power is still actual.

Even when we’re not all in the same room, we can still help move your organization forward with Virtual Swarming.

Liquid developed Swarming as a core method of our Silicon Valley Thinking™ to define how we work with our clients. To “Swarm” is to unleash the power of simultaneous collaboration by bringing together a variety of agency and client minds to co-create breakthrough solutions. We’ve relied on our Swarming method for years to solve a breadth of complex client challenges. Swarms have helped us define new brand strategies, create foundations for new workplace cultures and innovate new business models to imagine new customer experiences. While Swarms once took place only in person, we’ve recently implemented a set of new tools that allow us to co-create breakthrough solutions fully online, too.

Make the Transition

The challenges of facilitating a fully online Swarm seemed daunting at first, but we looked at it as an opportunity to put one of our key Liquid ways of working to the test: taking risks by embracing the unknown. We defined the problems inherent to virtual meetings, such as online meeting fatigue and loss of momentum between topics. Perhaps our biggest takeaway was people are not used to intensive collaboration online. Moving from simply having discussions online to making prototypes together is a big leap for many people, and this progression simply has not been expected behavior for most. 

Therefore, our focus was to ensure the online environment would support building participants’ comfort levels. This required several adjustments. First, we oriented everyone to a new set of tools. We developed a primer that went out in advance so participants could ensure they had the right software and were familiar with the essential functions necessary for collaboration. Next, we abandoned the full-day agendas used in face-to-face Swarms, in favor of shorter but more frequent online sprints. Finally, since the Swarming method requires everyone’s voice to be heard, we identified the need to manage the space in a way that invited each person to contribute.

That led us to a new set of tools involving two key applications: Zoom and Miro.


How Does it Work?

We settled on Zoom as our primary communication platform. Many of us are now familiar with Zoom, but there are more advanced features that everyday users may not be aware of. For example, Zoom allows us to produce break-out rooms that replicate the in-person Swarming method. It also allows participants to give real-time nonverbal feedback via reactions or via the chat box, inviting increased engagement—something that in-person Swarms don’t support well. Zoom also supports polls and even offers a robust set of annotation tools for quick markups or “votes” through the use of virtual stamps.

We chose Miro to facilitate participant collaboration for making prototypes. Miro is a collaborative workspace with an infinite canvas that Swarm participants can work on simultaneously. Here, we’re able to provide individual worksheets, virtual sticky notes and reference materials that everyone can access and share. We have designed specific canvases for each activity, supporting break-out groups as well as the full Swarm participant group.

Using these two applications in tandem, our virtual Swarms have become even more efficient than doing them in-person. Rather than blocking out entire days for a Swarm, we work with organizations in a few short “sprints” so that no one’s attention starts drifting mid-session. And since virtual meetings negate travel costs, we can more readily host global Swarms that reach across time zones.

As always, our virtual Swarms are facilitated by experts in their fields, so the thinking is always sharp and on target.

What’s the Result?

After running several types of virtual Swarms, we’ve found the transition from the in-person variety to be smooth. The Swarming process involves a diversity of minds to surround a problem with different perspectives, and that, combined with our methodology, tools and activities, is the secret sauce that ensures successful outcomes, every time.

When a wide range of people from a company participate, they all take some ownership of the resulting ideas and strategies. When everyone can rally behind an idea and be an advocate, solutions come that much easier, and buy-in is ensured.

Know Your Next Move

Virtual Swarming is also our preferred method for delivering our new offering, “Pivot to What’s Next.” This is a series of one-week facilitated modules that help organizations make sense of their current environment and find potential opportunities all around them. Nobody wants challenges to catch them on their heels. So when business as usual is no longer viable, you’ve got to be fluid and ready to make your next move.

Visit our Pivot to What’s Next website to learn more.

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