What a Difference a Lab Day Makes

Four years ago CauseLabs started setting aside one day every two months for our team to build projects of their own choosing. Little did we know the impact these lab days would have on our company’s internal motivation, our employees’ skillsets, and our ability to work collaboratively in innovative ways. Now, four years in, we’ve broken down our insights into best practices for other companies to follow, to help them achieve similar success. Innovation days go by many names, but the key elements are consistent: Bring together a few people, set up a basic process, and tackle acute problems. At its core, a “lab day” is any amount of time devoted to team collaboration on an agreed upon problem or project. Companies from Google to small start ups are finding that committing to lab days can make an immense impact on productivity and engagement in every other area of their business. Lab days engage our imaginations, address our restlessness, and allow us to tinker. During a lab day the blinders are on to other projects, email, and all other distractions. Teams of one to three people build for a set amount of time, then join with other teams at the end of the day to demo and get rapid feedback for next steps. Any organization with design thinkers and makers can use time like this to solve problems. Our path to lab days At CauseLabs, a software strategy firm, we began lab days a few years ago after one of our staff members came back from a conference with the idea of doing an internal day of innovation. Nonprofits...

UIEtips: Attaining a Collaborative Shared Understanding

In this week’s UIEtips, we look back at an article that discusses two types of shared understanding we uncovered and how one of them is far more likely to end with a successful design. Our next virtual seminar with Dan Brown covers shared understanding and how you and your team interprets and responds to everyday design challenges. Join us on May 15, 2014 for our next virtual seminar, Make Collaboration Happen, Even with Stubborn People. Here’s an excerpt from the article: I remember seeing an architect who talked about his best projects. When he walked through the finished building for the first time, he said it felt completely familiar because it matched exactly what he’d imagined years before. His intention had made it all the way through the implementation process. Seeing our designs rendered exactly as we imagined them is exciting. Yet it’s frustrating when our designs aren’t implemented the way we were thinking. As we study what makes design teams successful, shared understanding keeps bubbling up to the top of our list. Teams that attain a shared understanding are far more likely to get a great design than those teams who fail to develop a common perception of the project’s goals and outcome. Read the article: Attaining a Collaborative Shared Understanding. Which approach (contractual or collaborative) do you feel would be most effective in helping your team to attain shared understanding? Leave us a note...

UIEtips: Misconceptions about Collaboration

In today’s UIEtips, Dan Brown of EightShapes discusses the three ways in which people misunderstand collaboration. You’ll be much more successful encouraging collaboration with an understanding of these misconceptions. Want more of Dan’s thinking about design teams and collaboration? Join us on May 15 when he presents our next virtual seminar, Make Collaboration Happen, Even with Stubborn People. Here’s an excerpt from the article: Sometimes, people think of collaboration in very simple terms, ignoring the planning, structure, and organization it requires. There are three common misconceptions that oversimplify collaboration, as discussed next: Throw smart people together. Suffice it to say that working with smart people is satisfying and challenging. But collaboration isn’t just about smarts. It’s about providing a framework for working together. Just as important as intelligence is a willingness to work within the framework. Read the article Misconceptions about Collaboration. How do you encourage collaboration in your team? Tell us about it...

A Bias for Making

Today’s UIEtips article looks at the communication process designers and developers follow to bring designs to life. From the waterfall approach to an Agile method, the common goal is creating, building, and executing better designs. If you or your team struggles with communicating design objectives and process with developers and other key players, then you’ll want join us for Ben Callahan’s full-day workshop on workflow on responsive web design projects at UXIM April 7-9 in Denver, CO. Here’s an excerpt from the article: Step into the Wayback Machine, Sherman, and set the dial to 1994. You’ll find me in a conference room, explaining to a room of developers and product owners (back then, we called product owners either product managers or business analysts) how we would design their new product in less than a week. The expression on their faces would be one of OMG! This dude is insane. (Though, “OMG” or “dude” wouldn’t be common parlance for at least another half decade). We look at paper prototyping now and we think how quaint. Yet, back in 1994, it was a radical departure from established practice. In those olden days, design wasn’t done the way it is today. Read the article A Bias for Making. Does your team have a bias for making? Tell us about it...

UIEtips: Group Improvisation

Designers are constantly thinking about their process, workflow, and ways to improve both. In today’s UIEtips, we feature an article from Ben Callahan that offers an alternative approach to web design and development. At this year’s UX Immersion Mobile Conference Ben is giving a full-day workshop on workflow with responsive web design projects. He’ll show you how to manage expectations and create stronger products faster. Here’s an excerpt from the article: In 1959, Miles Davis got a few of the most talented jazz musicians of all time together in a recording studio in Manhattan. The album they were about to record would go quadruple platinum and still be selling 5,000 copies a week in 2013. The title of that album was Kind of Blue and today it’s considered by many to be the greatest jazz record of all time. The musicians Miles was playing with didn’t know what they were going to record when they arrived at the studio. In fact, Miles didn’t even really know. The only preparation he had was a handful of modal scales and a few melody ideas. No sheet music or chord charts. No rehearsals or overdubbing techniques. The first time the band made it through a track is the take that’s on the album. Though web design and modal jazz may seem worlds apart, there’s a lot that improvisational records like Kind of Blue have to teach us about our process-crazed industry. Read the article Group Improvisation. What techniques does your team use to improve collaboration? Tell us about it...