How a workshop that "turned wrong" helped me learn more about myself and helping people ground their ideas.

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Sometimes, even though we plan everything to the last minimum detail, the unexpected can sweep in and force you to rethink your whole strategy, and this is exactly what happened to me while doing my first week-long workshop in a foreign country.

It is hard to take into account the unknown, how to manage cultural differences, how to be precise in another language (even if you know it very well). As there are no formulas for success, I'll just be clear into what went wrong, and how to adapt.

First mistake: I planned everything to the last little detail. Usually this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is when you need to adapt quickly and your planning is so tight, there is little room for mistakes. I made a beautiful excel with all the activities timed to the minute, and when the client started to have issues with the exercise, moving away from something that was so finished, so timed and so constructed became a problem. We had to really change the dynamic from thinking about problems, creating products and an economic model for a specific product to directly choosing a product option and designing functionalities for it. …


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Image: Cyril Foiret

As designers, we make decisions and create solutions that greatly impact how people live their lives and behave.

We often talk about what is morally correct, what is ethically correct, but we use these words interchangeably without actually knowing the difference. Morality focuses on an absolute right and wrong, it describes what it is forbidden or permitted for us to do, which depends on the era or social context. Ethics on the other hand is the fundamental thought of what it means to act well, which means that ethics does not say what is right or wrong, rather it shows you the road you should take to live better. …


Two men trying to talk to each other with megaphones
Two men trying to talk to each other with megaphones

Lots of design firms have design principles. They take their time to make them, discuss them, and find the exact words to reflect and convey the perfect design intentions, but do we really use design principles while designing? for example, if we used the principle of economically viable, or desirable, do we actually think about these things while placing a button, a call to action, or think about our UX writing phrasing in this way?

This is a problem with principles, they are often in a form that is not helpful, creating big overarching statements that feel more like commandments than anything else, because the way they are described is like immutable statements, and immutability does not get along so well in an ever-changing world where framing and reframing lead to new perspectives and visions of the world we ought to live in. …


Rubiks cube
Rubiks cube

As designers, we love to co-create. We believe that including others and their perspective enriches everything we do, which is in principle, true. But are we doing this correctly? Are we framing our method an understanding it as we should?

  1. Co-creating is not necessarily Co-designing

Creation of input is not designing a product or service, these are two different stages, done with different people. What we usually forget as designers is that we have the methodology and tools to get the knowledge we need to be able to shape our product/service later. We will never have the depth of knowledge of someone that has worked in a company for 20 years and is specialized in their field. We might see stuff that our clients don't see, but this doesn't mean we know more about their field. We sometimes get too lost in our role as a consultant and we believe we have to have al the answers, which is impossible. Our role is to gather information that is already there, but that our clients can't make visible to act upon it. We are actually getting insights and variables through workshops (understanding), but we design with designers. If you are making your client or user design (aka you are taking textual input to make a direct decision) you are probably oversimplifying. …


Where to start?

Whenever someone talks about organizational culture people immediately picture different things: How people work, what activities are done to help team building, what processes exist or how space, artifacts and values shape what we do and how we think. Within all of these areas of influence, there are always values and competing values that will shape an organization for the better, or for the worst.

Kim Cameron describes a simple framework to be able to understand what spheres of influence we need to pay attention too and which competing forces exist between them. There are basically four quadrants which focus on people management, hierarchy, innovation in products/services offered and client/market focus. At the same time these quadrants have different attributes to them, like flexibility and discretion, stability and control, internal focus and integrations and external focus and differentiation, which are showed in the following…


Translating useful information into actionable steps and valuable experiences through two simple considerations.

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After talking to several Product designers, the problem of translation of insight into product design to create value and emotion seemed to be quite challenging, so I started to think about how to do this translation more effective by reflecting about my own process and making it conscious:

  1. Think about what behavior you want to change or encourage in users, not only about product features or requirements.

The first step to avoid this, is to link behavioral outcomes to product requirements and specific interactions. If you are making a banking app and one of the requirements is to show expenses more clearly, think about what would help users in your context, for example, if users are using installments and credit to make ends meet but then end up paying a lot of interests, what would help them change this habit? What would help them spend more wisely? …


Why companies are reluctant to invest in this methodology, and what we can do about it.

Person walking by a colorful wall (Painter: Momo)
Person walking by a colorful wall (Painter: Momo)

Foresight is a pretty scary word. It's somewhat magical, and at the same time difficult to ground it to our everyday work or reality. Not only the name of the framework seems a bit diffuse, but the process and outcomes seem hard to materialize into practical solutions that can be applied to services in the short term, and in a world where Agile and Scrum reign, it seems somewhat incompatible, so what we can do about this? How can we introduce foresight in a way that it can be compatible and enriching for companies existing processes and needs? …


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A lot has been said about the obsolescence of certain design tasks, job positions or deliverables. The most criticized role is the manager, the most despised activity are meetings, and the most laughed at deliverables are personas and briefs, but what if we were doing them wrong? What value are we losing by looking at them in a negative light instead of redesigning to serve our purposes? What biases underly within each of them that ultimately makes us blind to improvement?

The design manager

Related bias: He does not care, he is not in the trenches enough to know what's going on, he micromanages too much, he is not present enough.


Man dressed in a suit running towards an open door
Man dressed in a suit running towards an open door

Moving to a new country is always challenging: Adapting to a new culture, readapting your pre-existing biases about the country and its people, making new friends while leaving old ones and family behind, and finding a job. …


How polarization impacts our design decisions and how to avoid it.

Man's head shows his brain divided in two, with a square representing an idea leaping out from each side respectively
Man's head shows his brain divided in two, with a square representing an idea leaping out from each side respectively

Some time ago I wrote an article about how myths or stories that we told ourselves shaped who we are, how we think, and hence how we act, and I started to wonder what prevalent ideas about design, processes and deliverables hindered design in a regular basis and why.

Like in all aspects, polarization is present in almost everything, mostly in politics, but like a great Service designer I know once said to me "design is political", I decided to shed a light on this subject and find a way to avoid it.

What is polarization?

I first encountered the term in a book written by Kirk Schneider: "The polarized mind is the fixation on a single point of view to the utter exclusion of competing points of view". It's human being's inability to live with ambiguity and uncertainty, and the simple willingness to let others be themselves, rather than wanting to make them like ourselves. The need to conquer, to make them like ourselves, to fight against them, to eradicate them if necessary in the process. …

About

Camille Oudinot

Senior Strategic designer, passionate about design and creativity applied to Service Design, UX and Strategy.

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