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Collaboration experience design – an introduction

This post shows a way towards more engaging and more productive work: It provides you with the basic concept of collaboration experience design.

Design thinking is not only a workshop

In a previous post I explained, that many design thinking newbies see it only as a workshop format. Working longer with this approach on real projects you probably rather see it as a mindset for innovation. People who are trained professionally in UX design, service design or any other design field will see it as an academic profession that takes years and years of study.

If you have ever experienced design thinking in a workshop or longer project, you probably have been enthused by the energy level the team suddenly developed. Maybe you haven’t seen this happening in your ‘normal work’ for a long time. But there is a reason for that: These workshops and projects are engaging, because they are designed in a way that empowers the participants. Very often one or more facilitators ensure the continuity of the flow and they put a lot of effort and preparation into each design thinking engagement.

My definition of collaboration experience design

I call this effort “collaboration experience design”(#co-xd). This term describes the process of deliberately shaping the way people work together. The product of successful collaboration experience design can be a workshop or a longer project. While time is its’ medium, exercises and artful facilitation are its’ form and it can be applied offline and online.

Work dramaturgy

Dramaturgy is a term you know from theatre, where it can “be defined, more broadly, as shaping a story into a form that may be acted.” In the work context I use the label “dramaturgy” for the activity of shaping a work process into a form that is interactive and facilitates a certain outcome.

In design thinking trainings the dramaturgy is usually the same, because the facilitators follow one process or the other. They use a limited set of methods in order not to overwhelm their participants and they explain as much as necessary and as little as possible, because they want to enable the participants to experience the experience for themselves.

In real life though, you have to be able to adopt the dramaturgy to your own project. Each interim step of the process requires a new sub-dramaturgy (eg. for research or ideation), while each group of stakeholders is looking for a different experience in order to be engaged, convinced or just informed.

More than design thinking

According to the definition above, collaboration experience design is not only design thinking. Basically any work process can be designed as an experience. Design thinking is just one example of successful collaboration experience design. Scrum or scenario thinking would be other ones. Whenever they are applied the right way and with someone (eg. a scrum master) in charge, they work really well. Now think about your specific work area and imagine how that could look, if you add the energy and the engagement of design thinking work.

The problem is: in our normal work life, we usually don’t care enough. In theory managers and team leaders should be the collaboration experience designers for their teams. It should be their job! But often enough they either don’t care or they are busy with their professional advancement within the organization. Project managers also could be called collaboration experience designers. Unfortunately, their focus usually lies somewhere else: money, deadlines, deliverables…

No one really has time to think about the face-to-face collaboration experience. This is similar to the field of business software. For a long time no one cared about the user experience. As you might have read: that definitely has changed over the last years. Now it is time to give the the soft aspects of collaboration a redesign.

People first, then technology

Technology companies in the B2B sector have already started designing collaboration from a product and technology perspective. They create tools – even user-centered ones –  that make it easier and more enjoyable to share information. Nevertheless, collaboration experience design is still needed – especially if you look at the amount of time people are wasting in meetings that are poorly designed.

Besides the tech tools someone has to be in charge in order to create a truly amazing, productive and motivating collaboration experience. Just as theatre or movies get better with a director who sees and works toward a greater picture, collaboration gets better with a facilitator who is in charge of the experience.

Try it out!

… and stay tuned for more news and stories about collaboration experience design.



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