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They had almost no idea what they were in for…

What makes a good Design Team event?

I’m getting ready for my second annual team event: Design Week. And it’s going to be… SO. FREAKING. AWESOME. Seriously.

In part, because this time I’ll be one year better at delivering content that’s important to designers, engaging to my company. And I’ll be a little better at executing a truly memorable and valuable team event that reaches deep into the company. But if last year is any indication, I’m on the right track. Because last year was really cool. And here’s why.

We focused on the most fundamental aspects of design.
We devoted an entire day to empathy. To getting in touch with the most visceral elements of what our customers experience. It was engaging, invigorating, compelling — it made for great stories and some truly hilarious photos. We immediately got our team out of their seats and into the shoes of our customers.

We engaged our broader ecosystem — and they were killer.
We invited speakers from our central design team. We invited experts in prototyping and data design. Every day we introduced a new and interesting aspect of the work that was being done across our company. It was so cool to watch our team light up with all the possibilities and opportunities Intuit has to offer. It was like Design Hanukkah in June: every day we opened a new Intuit XD present.

We connected all the dots.
We had a presentation in which the central concept was VOLTRON, the giant robot constructed out of an assortment of robotic cats. An analog for the Intuit ecosystem — made stronger than the sum of its parts. Seriously, who works VOLTRON into a design presentation?! We do, mo-fos. We also connected how empathy powers ideas, and how ideas can be expressed in simple, clever ways to test whether an idea is as strong as we think it is. We connected with people, with ideas, and with business objectives. It was truly inspiring, and empowering.

We kept it interesting.
We carried our insights to prototypes. We considered how real data might make our experiences more compelling. We considered how we might use design to make us all better leaders. We visited another local developing design team. We sampled the world’s best popsicles — and some pretty good popcorn.

We were experimenting like crazy.
We executed this event at about 75% baked. It was loose, and fun, and just a little hectic. My new assistant somehow kept up — and got a crash course in how to deliver awesome to a creative team when the plan is not quite figured out. She has since learned to anticipate the details that drive my crazy ideas and works to polish them to a fine shine. She’s as important to my team as any designer in terms of developing our culture, and I never thank her loudly enough or with enough F-bombs. Thanks Sherri — you F’ing rock.

We grew as a team.
I grew. They grew. We learned, together, about our wonderful, talented design community. About each other. About Intuit. About popsicles and raw squid and excellent Dallas pork-only pizza. And I learned just enough to know how to make this year’s event a few days shorter, a lot more powerful for the whole company — and just weird enough to top our exploits last year.


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