Be a troublemaker
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had an opinion, the unwritten benefit of having cockney parents means I’m very ok to communicate my disapproval or if I disagree with everything.
I class this as a skill, a gift - the ability to have the confidence and comfort of speaking my thoughts and challenging on what I believe to be wrong or right.
In all honestly, this confidence has not always been there, this happened and evolved over time - learning when to speak, when to listen and when to support.
Getting to this point meant breaking it all down into simple chunks.
When to listen:
If there is a skill I always teach, it’s this one.
Just stop talking.
During my time at Sky Bet, it was important that I listened as much as possible to people who were not designers, letting them have the power of the room, empowering them to have opinions on something they don’t have much knowledge on and allowing the sense of comfort in the room.
This (right) approach means fantastic decisions can be made by the non-designers who are just-as creative - which is where I always want the teams I work in to be, and do everything in my skillset to get them there. Getting this trust is not an easy task, you need to be a different type of designer, one that is not precious about design, one that is approachable and more importantly one that educates.
Personally opinion alert: this skillset splits up the good designers to the brilliant designers.
Here at DWP, it’s no different - the need to hear the SME’s, or PM’s, BA’s, PTO’s (I made that last one up) is so important to learn what the actual problem is and to put distance between the problem and the solution.
How did I/we get the team to this point?
I have found so many techniques; giving each person a sharpie and a handful of post its is a big step for many designers, at first only a handful will speak and the rest will resort to writing it down - but eventually, a domino effect will happen and before you know it everyone is speaking, challenging and finding solutions that a single designer would never have thought of.
Some rules to this:
- I have never "picked on" the quietest person in the room - this is not a fair approach and its unfair to assume they have anything to add to the meeting (or want to).
- I have never told anyone to stop talking - unless they have spoken over others or are going off the script.
- I have never started a workshop or meeting without putting down room-rules, things like take turns to talk or (depending on numbers) hands up, write everything down, don't be a dick (work this one correctly to the tone of the room!), you have to stress its a safe-place - once you have simple rules in place - everything should and will flow better.