Being the first designer at Outward meant I had a blank canvas to design my team — not just in terms of finding the right talent, but also in terms of shaping our group’s culture. Establishing a set of team rituals, regularly practiced and frequently iterated upon, allowed us to engage in the real work of teamwork: to recognize and learn from each other as unique individuals, to speak a common language of critique and candor, and to develop and nurture a shared mission.
2017 — Present
My team’s weekly Design Collab is, hands down, my favorite meeting. I created the Design Collab when I first joined Outward; over the years, members have come and gone, but the meeting’s purpose remains the same: to provide a space for creative exploration, interpersonal reflection, and deep discussion on the meaning of design as a methodology, as a form of practice, as an industry, as a part of life.
I conduct a creative exercise to open each Design Collab. Creative exercises provide a way for team members to momentarily divert headspace from day-to-day projects into a quick mental or physical activity that challenges their understanding of design and of themselves. Every exercise is followed by a debrief, during which we reflect on things learned or meanings for us as individuals and for our work.
In my three years at Outward, I have rarely repeated the same exercise twice (by design). I love the challenge that this presents; it forces me to really look at my surroundings from different perspectives, to draw inspiration from absolutely anything — books I’ve read, an office plant, the sound of traffic — and then to craft an exercise that can be done in 15 minutes or less, with some sort of insightful lesson that’ll stimulate group discussion.
I’ve become known in my company by the phrase, “Let’s do a creative exercise!” So ask me if you dare: I can talk all day about the joy of creative exercises, which I’ve lovingly compiled into a library of more than 70 delight-inducing prompts.
Each week, one designer on the team gets a chance to present his/her/their take on design. Knowledge Shares invite us to contemplate the reach of design in the world around us, and to inspire fellow team members to think differently. The format is completely open (slide deck, showcase, masterclass) and group discussion is a must. As of writing this paragraph, I’ve counted 75 Knowledge Shares in 3 years — 75 different topics, ranging from the language of emojis to the design of money; 75 times that we’ve celebrated what someone brings to the team.