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How do you get a disparate group to co-create?

Recently I took on coaching an under-10s football team. There was a divide in ability, a mix of interest and a few strong characters. Despite winning games, it struck me that things weren’t working. The culture of the team wasn’t unified and it was holding back all the players. But kids are fearless and trusting, they want to have fun and learn. These are the ingredients you need for a successful design workshop.

One of the first exercises I undertook with the kids was to split the group up and ask them to name their team. I didn’t tell them they were sharks or tigers. They had to decide between themselves, be creative and take ownership. It was a simple way for each group to bond.

The quick exercise gave them all extra energy and ambition. Soon the ‘crazy gang’ were showing their crazy skills. And ‘the killers’ were keen to tackle the other team.

Design workshops can be a unique experience for businesses. It might be the first time that different departments, silos and disciplines are in the same room. Everybody brings a different perspective and will want to mark ownership or have influence before feeling invested in the project.

It is the job of the designer to facilitate rather than lead design workshops. Participants turn up sceptical, don’t know what to expect or how to participate and collaborate. It takes time to build trust in the process as well as between participants and share the ambition. Success comes quicker when everyone works together and helps to join things up.

Although it may not be the focus of a design workshop it’s also an opportunity to evaluate a culture and discuss what unifies the company. This unity may already exist within an organisation’s brand, if not, the design workshop surfaces evidence which could define and build a brand.

What I learnt from working with different groups is that there are a few steps to go through before people feel unified.

Step 1: You need to know you’re on the same team. Everyone has a role and can bring value.

Step 2: You are comfortable sharing ideas. Everyone should feel that they are able to ask for help and be heard.

Step 3: You can solve conflicts. As a group you’re able to find a solution and get the best out of each other.

Collaboration is an essential part of design thinking. It can help develop the right culture, define a brand’s purpose and get commitment from stakeholders. It is all about creating an environment to gather points of view and work through a series of steps to unify a group.

Find out more at www.theteam.co.uk/services/brand-strategy-and-purpose/.

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