Last week, on my fourth day at TPXimpact, I attended our Design team day.
The thought of attending a team day in your first week is both terrific and terrifying.
Being in-person was particularly beneficial. As we’re a hybrid team, it was a lovely opportunity for some face-to-face interaction. Team days are great for morale, creativity, communication, trust building, and can help reenergize and refocus the team –all the good feels. For new folks like myself, it's an ace opportunity to integrate, meet some of the team and build some friendships, and more. It's a great space to learn about the culture, and gain exposure to different perspectives..
So what did we get up to?
The TPXimpact Design team gathered at the fantastic central London venue – Coin Street, a community social enterprise. This, for me, immediately set a great tone, investing in the community rather than a big shiny venue (no offence to big shiny venues).
The space was buzzing with smiles and excitement as people hugged and greeted each other. Being new I was whipped up and invited to help prepare the materials for the icebreaker, I felt needed and my “terrified" started tumbling towards terrific as we bundled spaghetti and marshmallows into envelopes (big clue to the icebreaker activity).
Once teams were formed we gathered at tables while Megha and Vicky set the Marshmallow Tower challenge. If you have not done this with your team, here are some handy instructions. If you have done this challenge before and are thinking “that’s not very innovative” – well, this was not the normal challenge! There were extra marshmallows, alternative instructions and not to give too much away for teams who may do this in future. We had a marshmallow in a mug… it genuinely took the weight of a mug… A MUG!
This successfully ice-broke us. There was laughter, teamwork, a bit of competitiveness (mainly from me) , a few arguments over height and rules, then some well deserved winners and back to laughter while people chatted over coffee.
Design philosophy roadshow
TPXimpact has been working as a team on a design philosophy. To quote Ben Holliday (Chief Designer): “a design philosophy is partly about what we do now and partly about what we intend to do in the future.“
To make the design philosophy something practical we can work with, the design team created and launched a set of five principles in 2022. The roadshow had six members of our team talking through examples of good practice on their project, each showing off a different design principle. With 15 minutes on each station with time for questions and answers, we rotated around the room, visiting three stations in small groups.
Jeremy Hodge took Diverse reach and thinking – “It was about challenging an organisation's limited reasoning on which users we should test with, and restrictions on which stakeholders we could talk to”
Caitlin Roach and Nina Wafula took Ideas made real – “The big point was that taking an idea and showing what it could look like can take a client from "This will never work" to "Woah, this could really work!"
(Catlin also brought in wedding cake for us to test and feedback on… if there were bonus points, Catlin would get bonus points)
Martin Wright took Bold and ambitious – “I wanted to land that even the most rudimentary design project, or the most conservative has opportunities to be bold and ambitious in different ways”
Joe Bramall had Visual and creative – “This for me was about creating simple and visual outputs to foster engagement and understanding of complicated things with senior stakeholders and as tools for collaboration’
Jenn Wood had People focused - “I wanted to encourage our client to have empathy for their external care provider users and help them experience the same challenges their users experience plus among other things develop an evidence-based understanding of user needs.
The roadshow worked really well. It gave us a view into project work, and brought the principles to life through the story of the speaker, allowing for questions and the small audience groups to pull apart the views of the principle and digest the meaning to them. My only regret was I couldn’t go to all five of the presentations.
And to lunch… in a park, in the sun! Ok, the TPX team cannot control the weather, but an unstructured hour sitting on warm grass chatting in the sunshine was lovely.
After lunch our Chief Designer Ben said hello. It was at this point it dawned on me that the majority of the day had been led by the team. Ben gave a great update, he was visual and present all day, his talk was honest, to the point, but then he stepped aside to let the rest of the team pour in.
And pour in they did! Six lightning talks in 60 minutes, from the Princes Trust, to NHS England Cervical Screening, and several around Net Zero. Each felt personal –some funny, some serious, some deep learnings, some more reflective. All super interesting. As a new starter, this was an ace moment to see a spread of different projects and hear from different members of the team.
And to polish off the day we all got to jump into a fishbowl discussion.. A fishbowl is a facilitated debate or conversation you have in an inner circle of six chairs facing each other, and one or two outer rings, depending on the number of people. The debate starts with a couple of folks in the middle and people can stand and tap in (a bit like wrestling, but with intellect), people tap in and out, no one stays in too long, no one should dominate. It’s a little like karaoke, initially a bit nerve wracking, but once you have been in, you want to go in again. Mischief Makers share some great instructions for online or offline facilitation.
Alex Sadler introduced the subject - AI, I mean it's all the buzz! He then did a quick guide to understanding the basics, which was truly brilliant and clear - kudos. Then posed the question “What might the interaction between AI and our work look like in future, and what should we be doing?”
This truly was a team day – not led by senior leadership, but by the Design team ourselves. This really was reflected in the mixture of tenure and experience speaking throughout the day. As Bella Burt-Morris excellently put it, “seeing new starters, junior and mid designers sharing their work was awesome”.
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