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The Workshop Workshop: “Facilitation by Design”

Facilitation by Design Workshop

This week I attended a workshop on…workshops. A part of AIGA‘s Design for Good initiative, “Facilitation by Design” was led by service design superstar Renna Al-Yassini of user experience firm Adaptive Path. With loads of experience under her belt leading diverse groups to successful solutions, Renna led us through her process of how to prepare and execute a productive collaborative session.

Workshops can help with…

…gathering information
…making decisions
…clarifying direction
…generating new ideas
…building consensus
…creating compromise
…making a plan
…gleaning knowledge
…engaging teams
…boosting morale

Why a Workshop?

Collaboration. Workshops (like designers!) are by nature collaborative. As opposed to a regular old sit-down meeting where people may discuss a topic, a workshop is designed to resolve a specific challenge question by engaging invested participants. Problem-solving is approached with pre-conceived activities designed to gain perspective from diverse participants. It’s the perspective of the participants that brings the most value to the session. Whether it’s designed for morale-building or to conceptualize improvements for the staff onboarding process, getting the right people in the room who can speak to the details of the problem and offer constructive insight toward a solution is key.

Problem-solving. Workshops solve problems, or at least one specific part of a bigger problem. They can be used to bring different community groups together for consensus-building and planning (like building a local dog park), or strategic planning for companies or nonprofit organizations. They can be used in the very beginnings of a project, such as the start of a new design initiative, or checking in on the progress of a longer-term project to see if the roadmap is on track. Or it can be used at the end of a project to set final deliverables and a launch plan.

Flexibility. The beauty of the workshop is its flexibility of application. Once you get that the collaboration can be designed to target any specific challenge question (that is, what do we want to accomplish by coming together?), you can see that it can be used to approach any business problem…or community or organizational challenge, for that matter. The problem can be big or small, involving many participants or just a few. Which brings us to…

Who Needs a Workshop?

Workshops are not limited to launching a new design initiative. Here are just a few examples of who can benefit from a workshop:

  • Nonprofit organizations for strategic planning
  • Banks for new line of business ideation
  • Community coalitions for creating a roadmap
  • Marketing departments for successful brand rollout
  • Corporate mergers for information gathering
  • HR departments for troubleshooting internal processes
  • Product development teams to review & refine product design

What’s your main business challenge right now? Maybe it’s time to reach out to an objective facilitator to create some structure and collaboration around tackling it.

For more information:

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Step 1: The Branding Workshop

13-1022-WorkshopRecently, we looked at the 6 key elements of successful brand deployment, which gave an overview of our process for developing brands. The first two elements were “Company Definition” and “Corporate Strategy” — makes sense to start with the basics. But how do we get to know the company so well we can define it? That’s where our Branding Workshop comes in.

A workshop! Doesn’t that sound fun? Yes, you may have to bribe your team into participating. And you will need to speak up and share your ideas and opinions (harder for some than others). But we’ll all work hard, collaborating as a group. All this work will be well worth it in the long run when everyone is on the same page about exactly what your brand stands for.

Here’s how it works.

1. Preparing the Workshop: Where is the opportunity?

While preparing the Workshop, we gather a lot of information about you — interviewing key internal and external stakeholders, throughly reviewing your marketing collateral, looking at your competitors, and more. But we want to identify any gaps in our knowledge about your company. This could include gaps about your business, your brand, or maybe your audiences… all the relevant details that go into brand building. We recognize that these gaps could be symptomatic of the information you aren’t communicating about your biz in general, so we pay special attention to them. Then we design the workshop specifically for your biz, building upon the knowledge you’ve shared with us and working to bridge those gaps. The goal of the workshop is to get a deeper understanding of your brand and all the specialness about it. This is how we’ll be able to successfully translate your biz to crisp clear communications.

2. Scheduling the Workshop: Who’s around the table?

Scheduling the workshop is easy…maybe. It depends on how many people need to be in the room. And let’s try to get them all into the room — a workshop in person is far more efficient than a virtual one via video or telephonically. In my experience, a working group of five brings enough diversity and knowledge into the room, but is still a manageable number of voices. These five should be chosen carefully — they should be dedicated staff who can bring insight and expertise about your biz. A diverse perspective is very important here, as is choosing team mates who get your core business, brand and company culture, along with a shared vision for the enterprise.

3. The Workshop Agenda: What does it look like?

Workshop agendas are all different, as each Workshop is designed specifically for the client. The focus of the Workshop is typically on those items that are still not clear after our research — the elements of brand that the company needs the most help defining.

A presentation deck will outline the Workshop; it is distributed to the working group several days beforehand so that folks can consider things before we all meet up to discuss. Typically designed for three hours or less, we try to keep the agenda chunked in a way that is not overwhelming.

What follows is an example of a workshop we did last spring for a client who was looking for refinement due to a major shift in their core business which was never reflected in their branding.

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Keeping it to 5 items or less makes the most efficient use of our time.

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We try to cut to the quick of your core business.

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Discovering your big audacious goal.

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We spend a chunk of time discussing your customers and other strategic targets.

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Getting to the core of “what you are all about.”

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We are sure to discuss the visual and tonal qualities of the brand, which inform the creative direction.

4. Workshop Outputs: What do you get?

Workshop Notes

We distribute our raw notes immediately after the Workshop, and get going on the Brand Frame.

After the Workshop, we send out our raw notes from the event. This is just to remind you of what we discussed. Our next big task is to start pulling together the Brand Frame, which holds the company definition and the brand DNA. We spend a few weeks iterating on this fundamental piece. It’s the critical document that pulls together all of the ideas from the Workshop and lays the foundation upon which we’ll build our brand. The whole point of the Workshop is so we can make a really great, relevant Brand Frame. More about that in the next post in this series.

5. The Take-Away

There are a few key things to keep in mind about the workshop:

1. The prep pays off, in spades. While it may be a hassle to get the right people together to put their thinking caps on about the company and the brand, it’s critical to building a successful brand. Hone your leadership skills to get them excited about the process, and be sure your team is on the same page when it comes to the goals and the direction the company or organization is taking. There’s nothing worse for a Workshop than when the internal team starts arguing about where the company should be going.

2. 5 people, 3 hours. The majority of the work is in the preparation. Once the structure of the workshop has been defined by the prep, your team is free to be creative and think “outside the box” about the potential of the brand. You’ll be surprised at the awesome ideas that will come out of these three hours of interaction. And your team will find itself energized by the process.

3. Keep your team focused. It’s easy to get distracted by other business initiatives. Brand building may be lower on the priority list, but it will get done faster, and better, if your internal team stays focused and responsive through the duration of the project. Do whatever you can to keep them motivated and psyched about the project. Scheduling regular meetings will help move things along. And keep it fun!

See all the posts in this Brand Series »

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Website Redesign III: The Workshop

You’ve done some hard thinking about your biz and handed in your homework — articulating specific answers to our pointed questions. We’ve had a few follow-up conversations on the phone to clarify some things, but in general I’m getting the gist of what you need. So what’s the next step in the website redesign process? The Workshop! Doesn’t sound like fun? Yes, you will have to corral your internal team into participating. And you will need to pipe up and share your ideas and opinions, which are always welcome. We’ll work hard, collaborating as a group. But all this work will be well worth it when you begin to brag about your awesome, relevant, perfect new website. Here’s how it works.

1. Preparing the Workshop: What are your gaps?

At this point, we take the information we’ve gathered and identify any gaps in our knowledge. This could include gaps about your business, your brand, your needs from the new site, your audiences… all the relevant details that go into great website design. We recognize that these gaps could be symptomatic of the information you aren’t communicating about your biz in general, so we pay special attention to them. We design the workshop specifically for your biz, building upon the knowledge you’ve shared with us and working to bridge those gaps. The goal of the workshop is to get a deeper understanding of your biz and all the specialness about it. This is how we’ll be able to successfully translate your biz to crisp clear communications online.

2. Scheduling the Workshop: Who’s around the table?

Scheduling the workshop is easy…maybe. It depends on how many people need to be in the room. And let’s try to get them all into the room — a workshop in person is far more efficient than a virtual one via video or telephonically. In my experience, a working group of five brings enough diversity and knowledge into the room, but is still a manageable number of voices. These five should be chosen carefully — they should be dedicated staff who can bring insight and expertise about your biz. A diverse perspective is very important here, as is choosing team mates who get your core business, brand and company culture, along with a shared vision for the enterprise.

3. The Workshop Agenda: What does it look like?

The following is an example of a workshop we did last summer, for the nonprofit organization ATFA (Association for Trade and Forfaiting in the Americas). It doesn’t matter exactly what the organization does… what’s important is that they first took the time to fill out our Web Redesign Client Survey. We followed up with additional questions — some of which they answered, some they could not answer. We then built the workshop around the gaps in their self-knowledge so we could help them discover the answers to these questions, and so we could all be on the same page. The deck was distributed to workshop attendees prior to the workshop so that they could be prepared for the discussion. (They came with notes.)

ATFA Web Redesign Workshop

ATFA-Workshop-12-0814-002We designed the workshop agenda to capture the most essential information we needed in order to develop the website. This was a 3-hour workshop, which we find optimal for attention span, as well as the most efficient use of time for everyone involved.

 

 

1. USERS

We knew the organization wanted to primarily target their membership as well as potential members, but we needed more clarity. We explored which user type should be the priority, what information each audience would be seeking from the site, as well as their demographic information.

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2. SITE CONTENT (IA)

ATFA had done some preliminary internal research to determine what type of content was missing from the existing site. Because they had passed this research along to us, we were able to create a new site architecture that included the new pages, as well as a reorganization of the existing pages. We were able to use the workshop time to review the proposed site architecture as well as brainstorm some fresh ideas together.

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3. VISUAL DESIGN

Next we discussed the existing design and brainstormed their brand so that we could get an idea of the direction the visual design should go.

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4. EVENT / MEMBERSHIP MANAGEMENT

The biggest improvement the organization wanted from the new site was a way to manage and automate their membership as well as event registration. Because this was revealed through the client survey, we were able to do some preliminary research and come up with an all-in-one solution that seemed to perfectly fit their needs. They were very happy about this.

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5. NEXT STEPS

Finally, we recapped what we had discussed and determined next steps to keeping the website project rolling. In this case, it included a live demo of the suggested solution as well as my team writing a proposal for the site design and build. Now that we had specifics on exactly what the website needed to be, the proposal would be as accurate as possible.

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The Take-Away

There are a few key things to keep in mind about the workshop:

1. The prep pays off, in spades. While it may be a hassle to get the right people together to fill out that web redesign survey, it’s a critical roadmap to communicating detailed information about your business, and what you need from the new website.

2. 5 people, 3 hours. The majority of the work is in the preparation. Once the structure of the workshop has been defined by the prep, your team is free to be creative and think “outside the box” about the potential of the new site. You’ll be surprised at the awesome ideas that will come out of these three hours of interaction. And your team will find itself energized by the process.

3. Keep your team focused. It’s easy to get distracted by other business initiatives while the website redesign may be lower on the priority list, but it will get done faster, and better, if your internal team stays focused and responsive through the duration of the project. Do whatever you can to keep them motivated and psyched about the project. Scheduling regular meetings will help move things along.

Next Up: Website Redesign IV: Workshop Outputs
All posts about Website Redesign »

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