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Thought Leader.

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Welcome back to our Design at Scale – Academy series, focusing on the design practice in a team of ten. Once you define your team's network, you will be more likely to succeed as a Thought Leader. Understanding the networks allows you to become a unique point of reference, in this case, a thought leader; the business has a profound impact.

Artillery

Before you start, you have to have some ammunition to use to succeed. The easiest and probably the most practical way to create a design artillery and, therefore, a source of your wisdom is to start serving the existing team with their day-to-day needs.

Don't tell me that the developer doesn't need the diagram that communicates the impact of the deployment system. There is also the business analyst we're looking to visualise some PowerPoints for his boss. There is also a researcher who is trying to visualise competitive analysis for the following meeting. There is equally a scrum master or product owner who still needs to create a presentation for the board and doesn't know how to use the keynote. All of these are translated as opportunities for you to step in and communicate what the design can do the best – the story.

Knowledgebase 

Right, you got yourself a direction, and now, apart from your work, you are delivering something that is called added value to the team. The team will recognise it and, sooner rather than later, will reward you for it. It will not happen if you don't document it. Millions of designers around the world create artefacts for the team and leave them on different hard drives and different spaces, different Miro-boards, and different Figma-Jam of other people instead of documenting one single knowledgebase. All your work has to be in one space. That way, you can define how much work you have done and what contribution you have made to your team.

Once Space

Before we start drilling into the “One Space”, which will be the topic of the different articles, you have to make a very conscious decision of where and how often you will communicate your impact. At Designed at Scale, we recommend building a knowledge base in two different ways.

The first one is probably closer to the UI designers. I have often suggested to my design team members to create a single Figma file with their names on it and, every Friday, create five slides. You might think of one slide per day about what they have delivered and what increment this meant to the product team or the company. This is a very effective way to do the time sheets but also show whether things are if we need to grab them for further presentation. A better way that works like magic is to find the space called the knowledge base in applications like Atlassians’ Confluence, Notion, Coda or any equivalent.  These tools simply offer not only documentation of what we have created in the visual form but also allow us to verbalise our impact to a broader team. Therefore, we are creating some sort of a digital diary of our work. 

Your effort can be seamlessly translated into known documentation, guidelines,  design strategies, landscape analysis or behaviour & functional models followed by the animation and motion guidelines. The possibilities are virtually endless.  

Do not underestimate the power of documenting because one well-written documentation or confluence page will have a significant impact on the team and overall business.

Leader

This allows you to point out the one single location where you have done something, and the rest of the team can find it. That refers to transparency.  And do not worry; in the first month, no one will even notice that something like it exists. In month six, the entire development team will come to you for advice on how to design something – why? Because you have just made a signal from all the daily noise. 

We have a set of articles and methods for all team sizes. Also, I learned how to organise these spaces in order to quickly and easily navigate between the operational models, business requirements, research and analysis content,  strategy, experience, design architecture, development, releases, and integration. 

Your Voice

Once you get recognised, you can start crafting your own design voice. After all, you already have one; you start showing how this got done. On a daily basis, you’ve delivered it an increments, and at the end of the day, you’ve documented it. One Space – One Designer – One Product = One Advantage. This will allow you to get in front of the team leaders and demonstrate the impact on the proposition internally and externally. Now, you have the room for your voice and potential suggestions. Do not forget to shine through the action, not through your emotion. You are seeking their respect, not attention. Your ambitions must be clear, as this could, in some cases, play against you. 


People are generally lazy, and therefore, no one wants to create anything that has no further purpose. If you prove that your initiative has been reused 2-3 times – it means good business. You've just designed a better future for the entire team and represented as a team success – your voice matters. Several designers over the last decade have used that method and reported back to DaS™ that this very simple collection has opened several career opportunities alongside with the eminent impact on the business alone. It's not so much about the speed but the quality of your team’s growth. If you document on a daily basis, you will create your work diary without even noticing. More importantly, you will have enough evidence not only for your team but also for your social channels. Learnings that you have made through this process will evangelise your internal network alongside your social audience. Make sure what you share outside about the process and delivery of your team is first ok with your employers. 

Everything in life comes at a cost.

It's important to mention that “everything in life comes at a cost” if you want to become a Thought Leader – that means you have to invest time in it. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or any way around it. Regardless, mastering an AI or any other automation tool might save you a bit of time, but the real bulk of work is to see it and implement it, which is rightly unique to each company or design team out there. It’s about your input and not necessarily about the ways of working. In our courses, we show different examples through which you can see the automation part but also the challenges with human-social integration. We cannot automate your business, let alone your persona. That work comes to you. You have to make a conscious decision that this is what you want because the one thing to be to become a thought leader is not just the one-week thing. It's a lifetime quest and most thought leaders who are out there challenging themselves to improve their own workflows to balance the life-career growth and the impact of their life.

Write Your Own Story
Write Your Own Story

Join me in this series to become a better designer on a team. We offer three-hour courses at the Design at Scale™ – Academy, where you can get tailored answers to your team—followed by the support community that addresses the very challenges of the scale.

EMT

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