Big D(esign) energy

I’m almost done with my stint as Chief Design Officer at the Design Council and it’s a good time to reflect on the experience so far and what I’d like to keep doing in my last months and beyond.

A 79 year old startup

The vibe at the Design Council is very close to what it was like to be ‘entrepreneur in-residence’ at Startupbootcamp IoT because so much is happening across 43 people and our Design for Planet mission is still so new. Talking about sustainability is one thing, but putting it at the top of the agenda is bold and exciting. It means not only helping others transition but ourselves too. But just like any startup, you create an environment for change by talking about change all the time. So we talk about what we know, what we don’t know, what we want to learn more about, what we should do more, less of, stop doing altogether. We just happen to have a wonderful heritage and network to draw from in that journey.

It’s a very unique stage in a charity’s life and I feel privileged to help shape it while Cat Drew is on parental leave. Here are some of the ways in which I try to contribute positively to change every day:

  • I share 5 design related links at the end of every week. It helps me share my interests with colleagues (we don’t call them staff) and hopefully these help make new connections and have new ideas. If it doesn’t, well it’s a little end of the week ritual for me and means 5 less tabs on my phone. Cheap and cheerful.
  • I set up a meetup. I didn’t think I’d go back to running a meetup after 10 years of #iotlondon but I like them as a format for informal learning and networking for others as well as colleagues who want to come along after work. It gives everyone the autonomy to engage or not, but again, it’s there, quietly reaching 500 members in less than 6 months.
  • I work in the open. I write short little 2 pagers describing a piece of work and share them with our Senior Programmes Team, the other 3 Executives, and I ask questions on Twitter that are related and share some of my research. I invite comments, reply to each of them, collect twitter responses and feed that in. It’s a pretty unusual approach I think, but I’m always pretty confident it will lead to better work to have ‘many eyes‘ on a challenge.
  • I make intros and I don’t hover. I was always a connector of ideas, people, projects. If someone in my inbox is interesting and lines up with a colleague’s work, I’ll make that intro straight away. I don’t need to be there, I trust them to get on with it and do a better job. I forget about it almost instantly and never go back to the colleague to ask if they followed up.
  • I act as an internal consultant Occasionally someone will ask for my advice on something, or show me a project they’re pitching or working up, or share something that is almost done. I like those sessions the most. I always ask ‘but what do *you* think?’ and end with ‘feel free to ignore me’ because I wasn’t involved and I can’t possibly understand the finer points.
  • Turn every conversation into an opportunity I almost always say ‘so how do we work together?’ in a call with someone new. Climate change is a huge global challenge and we’re not going to work it out by being territorial.

I think if you’re going to work in a leadership role in an organisation and a sector in transition, you have to have the quiet confidence not to take up more energy than is necessary because the change is bigger than you. I look forward to my last few months and am grateful to Minnie Moll my CEO for letting me work this way.  I’ll be available for new work from July and if you’d like to talk about what I could do for you, get in touch!

By designswarm

Blogging since 2005.