Design leadership, office environments, design authority. conflict and sharing.

In this episode we will answer listener questions about how to make the transition from design lead to design executive, how do you create a creative office environment, a look at where design authority should sit in a company, how to think abbot conflict inside of your team and some best practices for sharing knowledge across you team.

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One of my favorite things to do are these shows where I am able to answer listener questions. I normally go through and create these shows in a vacuum so I love the moments when this is more of a conversation than a way one lecture. This show is built from questions people just sent me and some people who responded to my call for questions over social media.

Disclaimer!* – so sorry if pronounce someone’s name incorrectly. I did it in the past, I always feel horrible when I find out I did but please know I’m now doing it on purpose

Question 1: Design leader to design executive

From Pete Sena – Making the shift from design leader to design executive a crash course.

I think we need to start with something we probably all know or have seen but are afraid to say out loud. After all the companies I’ve talked with I also have come to a new insight that has been sitting in plain sight. To create the innovation your company it will probably have to be done in a way that not be authorized.

It can be a tough transition and it is a cruel irony that the longer we are in this industry the father we get away from what we love and why we started it in the first place. You still have to be able to drive great work and great thinking and build a great team – but that will no longer be your main focus.

You now have to concern yourself with things like
• Politics (how to position your team for success and power)
• Budget (how to grow and reward your team)
• Org design (how to grow your team and keep people on your team)
• Strategy (where is your team going)
• And more

Question 2: Office environment

From Megan Rarick – I would love to hear your thoughts on building out a creative environment for teams. I know Invision is all remote – but what have you done for previous teams you led, and what do you see when you visit different customers that works well.

I would say with any space I think it is more about the rituals your team has and the norms you establish as those define how you use any space. You can have a space with the worlds best design but if your team doesn’t know how to work and create then you have a dysfunctional team in a beautiful space. Versus I see so many teams that have old or dates spaces and they do amazing work and make the space work for them.

Different working zones
• Individual work area (individual work spaces and quiet)
• Team work area (communal tables, white boards and lots of energy)
• Producers in central traveling corridors

Question 3: Design authority

From Carmen Branje – Where should design authority sit?

I get this question all the time and I have to be honest that the question itself tells me there is a problem. The best teams I work with are a balance of product, tech and design. Everyone is a part of the process and they are all responsible for the product but each of them drive certain parts and own certain artifacts.So the “authority” for the design direction should sit with the design team.

But I would swap the word authority with words like expertise, subject matters expert and other things that infer more respect between the parts of the team. There has to be trust and respect. Without those things it devolves into a constant battle to see who is “right”. When someone is “right” then everyone else is “wrong”.

Question 4: Conflict

From Chris Federer – The topic of conflict in the design process is interesting.

This can be taken a few different ways but I will say that here again I would swap some words and use a term like tension instead of conflict. Conflict often implies fighting, someone being right (again), and a combative attitude. Tension implies different views, different opinions and forces that can pull against each other.

I think that is the heart of great creative work. Too many people surround themselves with people who just agree with them and this creates weak work and ideas. So create norms that encourage people to push against ideas, try and break them. Understand that these tensions may feel different and maybe even wrong but they are really good and necessary.

Question 5: Sharing knowledge

From Luca di Filippo – What’s the best way to share (design) knowledge? Processes/methodologies, guidelines, project relevant info… and how to keep everything updated and accessible.

Two different questions there – sharing to the organizational and sharing for a project. Organization needs to be shared, coached, part of on-boarding and revisited regularly. Projects needs a central point that serves as the source of truth for the project.

Final thought

Always here to help so feel free to reach out to question any time over social media!

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