If you’ve ever asked the employees on your design team which of their tasks they feel are a giant waste of time, or which processes just aren’t working, you may have gotten an earful. All of us, at times, find ourselves doing things we were asked to do, even when we believe our time would be better spent on something else.
But sometimes, there are things worth reevaluating that neither you nor your employees will think to reevaluate. Why? Because we tend to trust the tasks, processes and goals that were developed with the best of intentions and so assume their relevance still today. Not to mention, we’re too buried in our daily to-do lists, weekly deadlines and quarterly goals to stop and analyze our reasons.
Inviting your employees to try the following strategies and share their results can ultimately help your team to improve performance, open up to innovation and create more success for the team and the company/organization as a whole.
1. Ask Why and What If
When is the last time you stopped and asked yourself: Why are we doing this?
Children question the most ordinary and seemingly obvious things. Why are you eating that? Why are you wearing a coat? Why are you breathing? While it can be annoying (er, amusing?) we could all benefit from giving it a try. Let’s challenge what we think we know. This can of course apply to the details of creative work (e.g., why are we using blue in this brochure?) but it can be applied in other ways, too (e.g., why are we creating brochures at all?).
Once you start questioning why you’re doing something and whether you want to keep doing it, a natural next step is to begin exploring other possibilities. Asking what if directs your brain to come up with new solutions and explore the ways they could work.
CHALLENGE: Question everything you do for one whole work day (and challenge your employees to do the same). Ask yourself why. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way? Do we want to keep doing it? What if we did something different?
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We think the designers of Uber’s Brand Guidelines—the Best of Show winner in the 2015 In-House Design Awards—probably asked themselves why and what if quite a bit before they decided to toss PDFs aside and reinvent their brand guidelines for the digital age.
2. Nix I Don’t Know
When you and your employees begin to question why you do something or why you do something the way you do, your initial response may be I don’t know. Sounds innocent enough, but it’s a poisonous thought that can block you from finding the answer. Yes, it takes effort to search for answers, so it makes sense that we would rather say I don’t know and go on living our lives. But do yourself a favor and nix I don’t know from your vocabulary—at least for the day.
CHALLENGE: Don’t accept I don’t know as an answer. Instead, if it’s legitimately something you don’t know at this time, answer with something like, I’ll find out. Then go find out why you’re doing what you’re doing.
3. Embrace Innovation
When you begin to question established tasks, processes, goals, etc., you may be tempted to give up and embrace the status quo. You may find yourself thinking things like: We’ve always done it this way. We can’t change it now. That’s just how you do it. This is the way things are. It doesn’t matter if we don’t want to keep doing it—we have to. Allow these thoughts—it makes sense you’re thinking them, but they’re not good reasons to stop questioning.
CHALLENGE: Acknowledge the thoughts that make you want to avoid disrupting the status quo, and accept that though they appear indisputable, they are not completely factual. Then, move forward armed with the knowledge that innovation—whether in design work, in processes being carried out within your team or in overall goals—comes from challenging the status quo, and the challenging starts with you.
As with most in-house teams, our team handles a lot of work whose primary function is to support the needs of the business and our company. The In-House Design Awards have always been an opportunity for us to showcase the work that we as a team are the most proud of. … Our participation in the In-House Design Awards serves as motivation for our team, inspiring us to push our creativity further every day.
It’s an honor for our team to be recognized and be included in a group of other talented in-house teams. Just as we look for inspiration from others in the industry, we hope that our work in turn inspires others. For us, it means acknowledgement of our work at an industry level and validation of our contributions to the company’s goals and success.