Bringing People Into the Design Process

I recently had a conversation with Scott Millar, host of the Cool Collaborations podcast, about design and collaboration and how they go together. This is an excerpt of that conversation focused on bringing people into the design process.

Scott Millar, is a consultant who helps leaders, teams, and organizations navigate beyond their differences to tackle complex problems together and a podcast host. We recently sat down to talk about how design and collaboration come together.

Here is some of what we spoke about on the matter of engaging people in the design process (edited — listen to the episode below for the full interview).

Time for Collaboration

Scott Millar: “Do you need to bring people into the process of design with the time it takes for them to be part of the process.

Cameron Norman: Time is one of the most important things. And I would say that it’s really important to make sure that you account for time, but this is part of the designing for humans process as well, because the other thing is that we don’t have all the time we want, but we often have more time than we think to create things.

A good design is one that uses time that recognizes that it takes time to design things, to create things, to involve people in a meaningful way. But it also means being mindful of how time matters. So for example, you might want to have people involved in things, but you also want to make sure that anytime you involve people that it has meaning; it’s meaningful to them.

There are things that I encounter and enjoy that are designed that affect me that I probably didn’t need a lot of input on and that’s okay. There are other areas where I believe you can’t do this for me without me. A good designer – anybody who’s creating something for the world that has a purpose — knows when this matters. They ask questions and inquire about that. .

Does it matter to what extent does it matter that this particular tool, this particular technique or this particular policy needs your input and to what level? Very often when we rely on the ‘smart people’ to design something without collaboration from those who are affected by something that is meaningful to them it goes badly. Those things tend to fail.

Respecting Participation and Collaboration

I’ve also been in situations where you over consult. You spend considerable energy engaging people who are providing a lot of perspective on things they know very little about and truthfully don’t care a whole lot about. There’s a responsibility to make sure that when you bring people in, you’re using their talents and their time really appropriately. That is going to depend on what it is that you’re doing.

And this is really where, as a designer, you need to be very sensitive. You need to ask people if something is an issue that is really important to you and is it important to you in a way that you would like to devote time to collaborate with me to solve that?

And by asking those questions, you invite that opportunity to collaborate. You begin to start to find a level of collaboration that fits what I need, what you need, and whoever else is involved with that at the same time.

Designing for collaboration and design — as meta as that might seem — is important. Design is too important not to respect people’s time. It’s also too important to exclude them from the opportunity to contribute to what we make.

For more on Scott’s Cool Collaborations Podcast visit his website and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

For more on designing change for you and your organization, visit me at Cense.

Photo credit: Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

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Cameron D. Norman

I am a designer, psychologist, educator, evaluator, and strategist focused on innovation in human systems. I'm curious about the world around me and use my role as Principal and President of Cense Ltd. as a means of channeling that curiosity into ideas, questions, and projects that contribute to a better world.

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