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Part 4: So you want to build a team of designers to drive innovation?

What is the minimal viable design team?

In Part 3 I discussed three strategies to find and create the design mindset in your organisation. In this blog I am highlighting the skills and team you might consider when gearing up your design and innovation capability. One way to think about your skills and the team composition is to ask what is the minimum skills needed to make it a viable team for the organisation. as quickly as possible? The focus should be on delivering value to the organisation as quickly as possible.

What are the core skills?
The team needs to be able to do the following:

  1. Facilitate a collaboratore dialogue
  2. Visualisation skills and graphic information design
  3. Interaction design with an understanding of digital design
  4. Organisational designer
  5. User research
  6. Co-Design and prototyping
  7. Project management
  8. Communicating newness

What is the minimal viable team composition?
The team composition needs to be considered in terms of 3-4 as a set. This means that the team needs to be deployable onto projects, a nd a set of 3-4 people who can collectively deliver on the 8 core skills is usually a good size team to work with organisational areas. The team composition will need a leader who is as much an active designer as any other member of the design team. There should be no room for management overhead. If the manager mindset creeps in get it out, because the design team needs to be lean and all hands on deck. There are different expectations of the lead, such as negotiating budgets and business cases for further team build, but ultimately they will still be one of the designers.  Remember in a previous blog I talked about the need to have an external network of designers to tap into, and this is most useful here in terms of getting leverage to do design and innovation in your organisation. That means you don't need a full team or even need to recruit a large team. Most innovation teams, sit at around 7-10, complemented by externals (in some cases as many as 30 external providers)

What is the minimal viable time to stand the team up?
If we assume there is no starting point for the design and innovation team then we need to take at least 12-18 month view. This allows for a quarter of the year to co-design the strategy and create an initial team and set up a network. Then another quarter to pilot the work of group i.e. demonstrating value, mindful this is still a learning stage and lesson with inform longer term approached. Then another full 12 months to build the project portfolio and strengthen the core team.

The concept of minimal viable design team is built on the premise that organisations can take relatively quick, low cost steps and focus more on action and demonstration rather than planning and internal reflections that done amount to any real value.

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Nina Terrey

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