September 16, 2020
More often than not, product design teams spend too little time enhancing their skills.
They get into a rut of always focusing on their product's industry and never have time to look around at new technologies or trends. This is not a bad thing per se; it is just the way it is. They want to make their product better so they but all their energy into it.
But this approach introduces a big problem; the team can start to lack creativity and designers don't get to flex their creative muscles. It can become mundane and boring. And in this environment, it is challenging for teams to be pioneering and coming up with solutions that push the product (and the team) forward.
That is why teams need to spend creative time working on new things. Developers (and sometimes designers) do this through hack days, but designers should have a dedicated time to be creative.
I want to share how we stay creative through Design Jams.
The design jam is a quick workshop where our design team gets together, and we each work on completing a task within a specific time. And the main goal is that we either work on polishing up our skills or learning something new.
For each design jam, we are given a topic to research such as "Conversational Design", and then on the day of the workshop, we each have 2 hours to complete a task related to that topic. For instance, the task might be to create a conversational user experience for sports fans.
We keep the timeline short so that we can easily get sign-off for two hours, and no one will miss two hours of our time. And secondly, we use it as a way to see what we can do while we're under a tight constraint.
The goal of design jam is to spark creativity, do something different, get out of the mundane, and most of all, have fun while experimenting.
You cannot innovate without experimenting
And in my experience, if you don't have dedicated time set aside for workshops like this, then you'll push things off, and blame being busy for not doing it, which is just BS!
In the past, we've designed user experiences for wearables devices and even conversational apps. All of which we would never be asked to create for the business. It is a way of showing the stakeholders what we can do. Below is an example of the output from one of our Design Jams.
We keep the format as simple as possible so that it takes little or no effort to organise it. We book just over two hours for the whole thing which is broken down as follows:
The schedule is extremely tight, which is a good thing since it helps us all get better at working under tight timelines. And since the time is scarce, it also allows us to better focus on the task we need to perform.
You might want to extend the amount of time available (if you can) but don't increase it by so much that people procrastinate for the first part of the session.
By keeping the format simple and the time allocated low, then it will make it even easier to run a design jam and to get the thumbs up from stakeholders. All teams have at least 2 or 3 hours to perform it at least once a quarter, if not a month.
Once you decided how long it will be then all you need to do is the following:
And don't forget to share what you've created with the broader team. It is always good to celebrate what we achieve.
Here are a few do's and don'ts that you might want to keep in mind.
That is all you need to know to run your design jam. Try it out and please let me know what your team created by commenting on this post.
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