It’s one of us design professionals’ great ironies in our working lives that we spend so much attention on the design of whatever it is we’re designing, but little on our own working habits.
That was the big take-away I got from a great talk by Anthony Quinn (of Value Machine) called the Design Leader’s Playbook. There were two other talks (Conversion Design by Ben Marr and Designing Solutions Using Gam—–tion* by Lie Ming Tang), but Anthony’s really resonated with me the most.
Anthony packed in some nice meaty insights and tips about design leadership, including:
Make sure we design leaders/managers turn insights that we communicate into real action. Unless we make this clear and obvious to stakeholders/clients/etc, we’re short-changing the value of the insights and therefore our own work.
Give our sponsors ways to sell our solution. This is a huge one that keeps coming back to me time and time again. Making something clear and relevant to a sponsor is only the first step (that’s exhausting just thinking about it… by anyway!); the real effect is helping that sponsor take the message, the story, the direction, and actions to the people for whom the direction and actions are really intended for. No mean feat, whether you’re in-house or external. Which leads to…
Inspire others to re-tell your stories. Wrapping insights and actions in stories is what it’s all about. We can ‘design’ what we say so that each story takes on a life of its own that others will want to tell to others. Anthony shared a neat little tip: that first 5 minutes of a meeting when everyone’s waiting for that late guy to turn up before starting? That’s when you can share a story or two, to embed those ideas in people’s heads.
Do design thinking on your own reactions and behaviours, to get better consequences. Anthony shared some great (and disarming) stories about what it’s like to be intimidated by CEOs, left feeling like you’re an impostor, and getting into less-than-ideal behaviours as a result of those sorts of reactions…
As design(ers/leaders/managers) we can control this! He laid out a nifty Trigger > Behaviour > Consequence model as a way to do metacognition on your own thinking and working practices. Great stuff.
All of these for me pointed to how we can work smarter at designing the way we think and work. I used to think that design was 50% craft and 50% communication. I’ll have to re-work that equation to fit in cognition now!
* Call me a pedant, but I have a real aversion to that word starting with “Gami…” and ending in “ation”. It just shouldn’t be a word. It’s down there with that other word that starts with “Monet” and ends with “ise”, and rhymes with – well – no other word.