One of my first lessons in business when I set up England Art back in 1997 was that people do business with people. Create a connection and you will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to sales. One of my friends’ fathers told me that his tailor would call him every year and talk to him on the phone for 10 minutes, asking him how he was, how his wife was doing and remembering all his children’s names. He never asked him to buy anything or tried to slip in any sales message into the conversation, but by doing this he had a customer for life. You might think this is a strange opening for a post about workshopping but the concept about forming real human connections absolutely is.
I’ve always been a very big advocate of a thing called Crazy 8 Workshops. The concept is simple but the effects are dramatic. Simply put you get together all of the team, and most importantly, at least one major stakeholder. Fold an A3 sheet into half and half again and you get 8 squares. Next you must pose a question. This isn’t a brainstorming session where people throw foam balls at each other and there are no silly questions. The question can be very specific about an aspect on the project or it can be a little broader but it mustn’t be too abstract.
Everyone then draws, writes, scribbles their thoughts on the question in any way they wish and the results are pinned on the wall. As a group we move around the wall talking about the ideas that have been put forward. As a group we decide which ones feel good and cone to a consensus on which to move forward in the process.
So what? You’ve heard about workshops before, this is hardly new, well the key factor here are two people that are present, on either ends of the spectrum. The first is the stakeholder, let’s say it’s a company CEO. The other might be an intern who has just joined the company, in between are the other key players in the project. The relationships that are formed in that room on the day between all the members will foster respect, understanding and a cohesion that is often forgotten about. Remember 80% of tech projects end in failure and I would propose that one of the largest reasons for that is a lack of communication.
The question you pose is largly unimportant (although if you get to answer a sticking point then great!) it’s the interaction, the broadening of minds, the understanding of eachother’s roles, the different world view’s expressed and the relationships that might not have had the chance to form that is.
The other outcome is that if a stakeholder is in the room to witness the thought process and progress through an idea, that could often be seen as novel or risky, then you have more buy in. We have all been in the situation where the team comes up with an idea that’s different and new and then you as the UX designer have to go to a stakeholder meeting and recreate the enthusiasm and buy in. It’s sometimes very hard. If your stakeholder is there with you when you give birth to your new idea, well it’s obvious.
So UX designers are often thought of as all about process, well we aren’t, we also people manage, form relationships, connect fragmented ideas and glue a project together as best we can. We are also people.