Written by DTGUSA
In only two years since its launch, the Wednesday Web Jam community has evolved into a dynamic, global movement with ties that run deep. Learnings sparked and spread. Connections formed and blossomed. And at the core of it all? Embracing failure.
The Wednesday Web Jam (WWJ) virtual gatherings were born in March 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Arne van Oosterom, founder of DesignThinkers Group, announced the first session, Design Thinking and Creative Leadership, as the public health crisis surged dramatically and much of the world retreated into lockdown: “This webinar, first and foremost, is meant to give something of value to this amazing community of creative thinkers and doers. This is a time where we need to support each other with whatever we can do.”
“This is also an experiment to learn from this current crisis,” he said. “We need to learn how to change the way we work, adapting while still creating meaningful solutions.”
During WWJ’s infancy, a mantra emerged—“failing forward—there is no other way!” This mindset provided a perfect frame for countless interactive experiments, new concepts, engaging guests, and awkward moments. The organizers built a psychologically safe space in which anyone and everyone had the creative freedom to experiment, learn, and laugh through stumbles and successes alike.
Ximena Durán, a business relationship manager from Mexico, described her excitement around the first few jams in a July 2020 article. “The purpose of the meetings was to create a space and environment to learn together, experiment and try out new stuff,” she said. “And the purpose has been fulfilled session after session.” Although sessions are recorded and certainly convey good information, she shared that watching the videos can’t measure up to the live experience of meeting new people in the breakout rooms or collaborating and co-creating in real time. “I feel very grateful to be part of this journey and very glad to have this space in which many people can come together… and knowing it is a safe space for us to learn together.”
Indeed, in its first year WWJ established itself as an effective platform for designers, innovators, and change makers to connect, share knowledge, and play in the sandbox of virtual spaces. A dedicated group of volunteers solidified, and they committed to staging 1-hour online learning experiences, for free, every Wednesday.
It was a huge hit. The weekly series struck a chord with those who crave and foster creativity, experimentation, and change. “WWJ has added to my stagnant learning curve during COVID,” said Anupa Dasgupta, a service designer from Karnataka, India. “I was very isolated and this opened up doors for knowledge building, global conversations, and lots of chatter about silly things!”
Donna McDonnell, a technology solutions designer from Memphis, TN, has been an active member of the community since its early days. “Each session has been a unique opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, mindfully structured environment—they have been fun, serious, thought-provoking, and insightful,” she said.
Particularly striking was a personal insight Donna shared as a result of the recent session Overcoming Binaries. “I began to see the WWJ community as moving actively—independently but together in all shapes, sizes, and colors—from what was to what will be. We’re shaping what will come.”
There is no better way to understand what the WWJ community offers than to hear from some of the volunteers who quietly toil in the background to bring WWJ to the world. Here are just a few highlights of their favorite moments so far. You can find the whole archive of past jams here on the WWJ website.
Ximena Durán (Mexico)
#5 – Gamification in Online Sessions with Yuen Yen Tsai
This session set a very special and transformative path for me. The fact that someone had shared about games, learning, and play in a fun way and had put a lot of effort to make something that connected both the online and offline worlds—it just made me want to learn much more about gamification. Yuen Yen set us in a task and provided different materials to read and watch—and for me it was like “I just wish I had known her before?!” I was very happy to know that there would be a second session and I remember that she had challenged us to create a game to make virtual sessions fun that we would present in Session #6. That was a new course for more fun challenges.
For some, hosting an online session might come easy, but for Mimp and me, it became a challenging experience and a moment of growth. I can say I felt that fear of how the session would be and what if we would really screw up, but in the end the motto of #failingforward prevailed. The topic was really personal to Mimp and me, and along the way we discovered more about other people as well. To make it happen, we asked for and received lots of help, with not only with designing the session and facilitating insights, but also building our confidence. It certainly represented a very meaningful milestone. We co-created some cards to have better conversations and not start with assumptions about people in another country like “You’re Mexican, so you must love eating tacos.” We wanted people to have conversations that showcase others for who they are and not for the stereotypes we may carry in our minds.
Yuen Yen Tsai (Netherlands)
#5 – Gamification in Online Sessions with Yuen Yen Tsai
#6 – Co-Creation of Gamification for Online Sessions with Yuen Yen Tsai
I was the speaker and I felt so honored to share my 10+ years in game design and gamification. My goal was to create an interactive, playful two sessions. Thinking back on it… boy, how that was over designed. I still remember Marc’s facial expressions as he asked me to pare down the agenda, breaking my heart… haha!
#15 – Doug Dietz on Co-Creation
Doug’s jam was so detailed and engaging. I use this story now as standard material when leading design thinking trainings. The example of designing a new care station for babies is just appealing to all of us. But, how to find the innovative concept is a true journey itself. Participants could grasp the essence of the design thinking process in 10 minutes—that’s how GOOD the material is.
#51 – The ‘Thinking’ of DT / Philosophy of the Frame with Fieke Sluijs
I loved this session on design thinking led by Fieke Sluijs. She looked through the lenses of philosophers, and I realized I’m not the only one asking these sometimes-difficult questions. I truly feel they are brainfood. AND then she drew her slides, live!! My attention was fully drawn into her story as she flipped open that ‘comic book’. I fell into a flow-state. As humans, we are designed to create. Who dares to say they are not creative? We all are. (For more on this session, check out Nachiket Akhave’s article here.)
Nachiket Akhave (India)
#23 – A Zoom Escape Room / Bring Keys to Unlock the Treasure, facilitated by WWJ
I have been part of most of the web jams, and all of them have been interesting, insightful and collaborative in nature. But, one session stands out for me — the escape room experience we designed for the launch of our WWJ website. We invited everyone to play a fun and exciting treasure hunt game where we raced against time to find the key that would unlock our website! Organizing it was challenging, but the orchestration during the jam was fabulous, and, amidst a lot of confusion, chaos, and help from the fellow community members, we unveiled our new website! The entire experience was amazing. Iterating on the format and structure of the jam, choreographing dialogs, managing breakout rooms in Zoom, maintaining the element of surprise and excitement throughout the jam session, to finally creating a delightful experience for everyone! Throughly enjoyed being a part of this fun and crazy experiment!
Anupa Dasgupta (India)
#38 – Beyond Icebreakers: Stoking the Room with Bre Przestrzelski + Marc Bolick
The use of icebreakers sets the tone for facilitation of a session and it is a great starting point.
#80 – Scaling Design Capabilities with Greg Warman
I liked how great this session was organized. The key tools to build communication effectively in reference to the individual and the team was well illustrated.
Marc Bolick (USA)
#36 – Let’s Go Mobile
This was the first session we did during the pandemic when we encouraged people to go outside for “a walk together,” and it was amazing to connect with other people during the pandemic, outside, in their own environments, through WWJ. Our formula was a spin on the 1-2-4-all method of collaboration. We started in the main session with those who could join ‘outside’ (some people were still in lockdown), then put people in rooms initially as pairs, then in fours, to share what they were experiencing in their environment. We then brought everyone back to the main session and talked about what it was like to ‘walk virtually’ together through the outdoors. This was a magical moment in the peak of the pandemic where we were able to recreate the experience of taking a walk together. About a year later, we repeated the experience and it’s certainly something we will do again.
#88 – New Year, New Pitch! with Claudia Mayer
I enjoyed this session that helped participants develop their own personal ‘pitch’ about who they are and what they do. Claudia made this session engaging and valuable for everyone by providing a simple framework for your personal pitch. I’m still using an iteration of the pitch I developed in that session.
#69 – “Empathy Tent” with Marc Bolick and Anupa Dasgupta
Anupa and I collaborated to recreate the concept of an empathy tent, something I had seen in the Saturday market in Eugene, OR, USA. What I loved about this session is that we had no idea how it would go. We wanted to explore what empathy really means and, more importantly, what empathy feels like. By carefully introducing empathy with a simple framework, then putting people randomly into breakout rooms with instructions for ‘listeners’ and ‘sharers’, we were able to stimulate deep discussion and reflection in the main room when we brought people back about the experience of empathy, both from the giver’s perspective and from the receiver’s.
On April 20, we celebrate WWJ’s second birthday during our 100th jam! It’s free. Click here to register.
Do you have an idea for a WWJ? We’d LOVE to hear from you. Please share it with us here: http://bit.ly/wwjideas
About WWJ: https://www.wednesdaywebjam.com/about.html
WWJ archives: https://www.wednesdaywebjam.com/jam-finder
Support WWJ: https://www.wednesdaywebjam.com/donate.html
LinkedIn group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13850026/
LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wednesday-web-jam/
LinkedIn events: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wednesday-web-jam/events/