Sunday
Mar132011

Is Facilitation the Next Big Design Skill?

In my experience, extremely skilled designers come out of school thinking they're going to change the world, so they go charging into a company driving their new ideas, expecting everyone to embrace them. Often (but not always), they're surprised and a little disheartened when nobody steps up and excitedly moves to implement their new vision. I typically find that as designers move through their careers, the most successful become great facilitators. I don't mean that they're good at manipulating people to take their ideas. Rather, they grow skills in actually bringing all the right people to the table, hear their perspectives, and leverage those perspectives to come up with an even better product, one that everyone supports on an emotional level. The reality is that if you can't get people to support your ideas emotionally, you won't get your product to market.

For social or crowdsourcing appications, for example, the support might arrive virally through millions of people who love your product. But that's emotional support. But, you can't get even a simple product to market by yourself. You need others engaged. If you're in a company, you need to first get the support of the people around you. Design labs are a powerful technique that Jim and Carola for example have used to turn teams around and get them to adopt new and transformative ideas. They get innovative and new ideas adopted, but they do it through facilitation, not just by pushing harder.