1. Divide and conquer.
Getting everyone in a room together to hash out an issue sounds like a noble idea, but in practice, this often results in group-think or long-winded soapboxing that leads nowhere. Without an effective facilitator and a series of well-founded activities, group workshops can be tricky to say the least. So, before inviting an entire group to participate in a workshop, first meet separately with individual teammates or small groups. These discussions will help you to understand their separate points of view. Then, take the time to synthesize the data you’ve gathered. You’ll end up using everyone’s time more effectively and come to consensus more quickly.
2. Create something tangible.
When relying only on discussions, team members may experience disagreements because of differences in their interpretations of each others’ vocabulary. However, design researchers inherently favor design, so find it beneficial to bring something written to a discussion or, better yet, a visualization. Such artifacts provide a common benchmark and help people to set aside their differences in terminology and focus on the real issues at hand. When capturing feedback during a discussion, you’ll get better results by documenting that feedback directly on a design artifact rather than simply talking and taking notes. Without the use of such tangible artifacts, conversations may lead to circular discussions that lack deep insights.
3. Clarify your purpose first.
All too often, meetings begin before participants have aligned on their objective. Instead of coming to agreement at the beginning of a meeting, they may rely on an email agenda or even just the subject of a meeting invitation. Design researchers know that, when there is limited time or a team is using an unfamiliar approach, it’s important to set clear expectations up front. So, at the start of a conversation, be sure to introduce your goals and the topics you hope to cover before diving into discussions of specific issues. The conversation will flow much more smoothly, and you’ll be more likely to reach your goals if the people with whom you’re discussing issues understand your overarching motivations regarding specific questions.