It’s time we face the facts. Many of our co-workers don’t care about what we do in-house—it’s a sad but true statement. It doesn’t matter to them how well we kern type or if the company logo on slides 42 through 97 are stretched into an unrecognizable mess. They don’t see it. Unfortunately, most (not all) care even less about good design, custom photography, user experience or any of our valid reasons for wanting to award the bid to the slightly more expensive printer. They don’t get it.
What about the brand? Well, to a few of our co-workers, brand is the type of cereal they choose to eat each morning. To many of our fellow employees, we’re just the “artsy” folks who live down the hall.
What these co-workers care most about falls squarely on the bottom line of meeting their year-end performance goals; on the surface, this level of focus isn’t problematic to in-house teams. Their eyes are fixated on the potential accolades received from the successful governance of their assignments and the increased probability of a monetary prize at the end of the year. Dig a little deeper and the challenges rise when the creative strategies you developed that gave life to their ideas and lifted the project into prominence isn’t understood, valued or acknowledged.
Don’t get frustrated, especially when these co-workers begin to fidget in meetings when you’re presenting a concept. If you see their eyes glazing over, it’s because they don’t speak our language. They simply don’t understand and most likely feel uncomfortable in their ignorance. Turn your frustration into an opportunity to educate them on the creative strategies behind the design. Let co-workers know how your decisions will positively impact their objectives. A light will come on.
The best way to get these types of conversations going is over lunch and learns, not the old tired ones, but a more strategic and interactive kind that truly focuses on highlighting your in-house teams ability to collaborate and innovate. I like to call it the New Power Lunch.
If your in-house team completed a major project in collaboration with another division, continue the collaboration by launching the project over lunch. If your organization is small, invite the entire company to a Power Lunch to learn about the project, or if you work for a significantly larger company, break bread with employees in a specific division that you’d like to work with more regularly.
My team and I completed a major campaign for our economic development group. The goal of the project was to encourage local entrepreneurship and business retention. We decided to feature locally owned and operated Carolina BBQ joints in a calendar and corresponding interactive website. The calendar was sent to everyone in our company along with an invitation to the Power Lunch to share how we planned to use this calendar to spark economic growth in the communities served by our economic developers.
We asked one of the tastiest BBQ joints to cater the lunch and invited celebrity Pitmaster Ed Mitchell from Food Network fame, who was also featured in the calendar, to talk about the history of Carolina BBQ and the fascination with all things pig. We had 85 percent of the entire company turn out for our Power Lunch. We built corporate advocates that day from the C-suite on down. Plus, everyone loved it when Mitchell autographed their calendars and was provided the opportunity to take pictures with the culinary legend. We’ve hosted several Power Lunches since that first one. We’ve also solidified an incredibly strong partnership with our economic developers.
Photo from Shutterstock
Think this is something you’d like to try? Remember while educating your co-workers about form, be sure to include a healthy dose of how the project is intended to function and be utilized by all stakeholders. Through your explanation, guide co-workers out of the darkness of creative and strategic ignorance and enlighten them in the process on the value your in-house team brings to all project collaborations.
Your brilliance isn’t a fluke. It didn’t ride in on a one-trick pony. Speak in familiar terms that make folks feel comfortable. They’ll be more receptive if you’re both standing on level ground, especially if the smell of good, down home cooking permeates the air. With every morsel of information you feed them, they’ll transform into advocates and you’ll no longer be viewed as the “artsy” folks who live down the hall.
Get even more hiring advice at the In-House Management Conference at HOW Design Live 2014.