By applying some patterns from the popular ‘unconference’ format, we can all turn a regular work meeting into something much better, where we can learn from each other, and do our best work together.

I still remember my first time. Back then, I just stumbled into it, not even really knowing what I was in for. But once I experienced it, I was hooked. I mean, I wouldn’t want every time to be like this, but every now and then, doing it this way made it sort of special.

Yes, I’m talking about ‘unconferences’. Rather than having a bunch of…

Here’s a familiar scene for you, I’m sure.

You need to get stuck into that thing at work, but you check your inbox, to see if there’s anything urgent first. You wade through the latest wash of emails, and you find a meeting invitation:

Here’s a simple but really effective technique I’ve used for a while, that I thought might help you and your team in your critique sessions: the vignette sketch.

If you’re a designer, or indeed even if you’re just part of a multi-disciplinary product or service team, you’ll know how important it is to share your work early and often for critique, guidance, and just generally making the work better.

Critique sessions can be amazing. You can get great guidance on whatever you’re working on, and there can be some genuine moments of collective insight, and even brand new ideas as…

Do you look forward to your group design critique sessions? Or are they a tedious mix of stale design clichés and politics? Here are 6 anti-behaviours that can get in the way of great group design critique sessions, and some ideas on how to help each other.

Read the design, but read the people too

Design critique sessions are like poker: some of us have picked up how to play the game from others, and we give it a go and hope for the best. We win some, we lose some. …

“What problem are we trying to solve?” is a smart question, but it usually gets us nowhere. Here’s a better way, and some better questions to ask.

I was in yet another planning meeting, when my colleague leaned back in his chair and said “Yeah, but what problem are we trying to solve?”

Silence followed.

We all knew why he was asking. We’d focused too long on what we were doing, not why. And, we all thought the same thing: we’d love to come out with a crisp answer to that question that would impress everyone, and unblock us, but…

All illustrations by the author. Any resemblance to actual cats is purely coincidental, etc.

The new year brings lots of things. National Spaghetti Day (Jan 5), Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (Jan 28), and of course: strategy sessions and offsites. These sorts of sessions have high stakes — with lots of highly-paid people in the room who need to make important decisions — and yet so many end up being so lame!

If you run strategy/planning offsites (or need to be in them), I’m sure you’ve seen lots of things that get in the way of an effective outcome. But even with the best planning and stakeholder management, and a cracking good agenda, it’s the…

There’s a missing link in the way we (generally) frame problems in strategy and design, and it’s not the problem statement. Here’s a way to maximize the chance of better problem definition.

In strategy and design — whether it’s for a neat new app or dealing with huge intractable issues like climate change and mass migration — how we think about problems, talk about problems together, and of course solve those problems together, is critical to our success.

And that’s what problem framing tends to be all about: expressing a problem on behalf of those who are experiencing it, in…

Image by the author, with apologies to René Magritte!

Lots of organisations are improving their culture these days, by embracing diversity, inclusion, psychological safety, and so on. But how can we transform our work culture, by design rather than by default? Can we even?

Magritte and his pipe

I’m a long-time fan of Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, and I often think of his painting The Treachery of Images, otherwise known as Ceci N’est Pas une Pipe (This is Not a Pipe).

Enough, I say! Enough with the hacking, already. Enough with being so enamoured with the term ‘hacking’. Let’s pause and remember that hacking is not the only successful mindset to have. Let’s take a moment to show gratitude to the way of the weaver.

Back in 2010, Sean Ellis, Hiten Shah and Patrick Vlaskovits coined the term growth hacker, which Mr Ellis then used in his piece Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup *. …

When all other channels for change had been exhausted, I turned to art to try to make a difference.

Like many Australians, I’ve been in constant shock, grief and angry bewilderment at the Australian government’s appalling treatment of asylum seekers, imprisoning them in off-shore death camps — specifically Nauru and Manus Island — at a cost of $1.2 billion a year to the taxpayer, basically leaving them to rot at the hands of belligerent subcontractors and violent locals in failed states.

The atrocities and suicides have been mounting, the whole issue got ignored at the recent election, and now The…

Ben Crothers

Design strategist, educator, sketchnoter, facilitator, explainer, author of Presto Sketching. I like bringing out creativity in others.

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