Good design is only half the story

I had the opportunity to sit in on our new Design Communication & Collaboration class taught by Kendra Shimmell, and it changed my perspective about how to work better with people! Instead of trying to persuade collaborators to work with me, this course focused on empowering them to better work with me. The class goes beyond design as an outcome, beyond pictures and pixels. It discusses design as an act of facilitation, digging into why great products and services get upended while tackling the difficulties of communication and collaboration that get in the way of great design.
Have you ever been on a project team that had a killer idea, ran with it at full speed, and came up with some amazing work, only to have a silent stakeholder finally voice their concerns and “torpedo” the project 8 months down the road? Had the team been able to address these concerns early on and often, the meltdown could have been avoided and the idea come to fruition. The message of the class is clear and powerful: Successful design is as much about how well you work with others as being a good designer.
Effective design is never a one-person show; it is a co-creative process made up of designers and non-designers coming together from a variety of business and technical perspectives. Anyone who has to touch, bless, give input, feedback on “the design” is a co-creator. The sooner the design process is understood to be about the facilitation of co-creation, the sooner the outcomes will be more successful.
StudentsWorking_2.gifKendra illuminated the importance of facilitation by giving the class tools to assess their co-creation process (people, skills, needs, goals), and to diagnose and overcome roadblocks. By being more inclusive, transparent, and targeted in the design of workshops, meetings, and communication, designers can inject more opportunities for “non-designer” collaborators to be more effective co-creators.

Big ideas from the Design Communication & Collaboration class

  • Illuminate assumptions and facilitate goal-directed design thinking
  • Empathize with your collaborators; identify and address their needs and fears; build trust, and spark their interest in the creative process
  • Gain buy-in through participation

The stars of the show are these awesome method cards! Cooper designers created a set of cards that explained some methods, tools, tips, and tricks for addressing the various communication and collaboration challenges. Never run a vision workshop before? No problem, these cards provide simple frameworks for how to successfully set up and facilitate a vision workshop with business stakeholders. Having a hard time socializing your designs? No worries — start an information radiator, and soon, everyone around you will know exactly what you are doing, the vision you’re driving towards, and how you intend to get there.
My prediction: After taking the class and putting its lessons into action, participants are going to be using the priority wall method to manage all the great new ideas and abundance of participation from their newly energized collaborators!

Faith Bolliger

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