Why Continued Training for Designers is Critical

From the Raft email archives

During my time as the Creative Director running Raft (now argo), I’ve had the privilege to drive a small company that brought in coaches, sent team members to conferences, and also attend individualised training sessions. I have, and will always believe, that employee education, along with strong culture, is a foundation for creating a great employee experience and a great company.

I believe it’s important to share everything possible with the entire team to make everyone stronger. We’ve had people who joined Raft not knowing how to make a responsive website, or mobile design patterns. I can confidently say that thanks to the help of everyone collectively, after 3–6 months, those same designers became experts in those areas. Sharing knowledge has been critical to our success.

Sadly, I’ve met many people who have determined that building their own skills, and hoarding knowledge to appear stronger than others, is the best approach to get ahead. Of course acquiring more knowledge and training is always good, but the more you share it with your team, the more they are going to benefit and grow from it. For anyone running a small company, the better you can make your team, even if that means they are better than you as a founder, the better off you will be overall. Always strive to hire people who have the promise to become better than you and emphasise learning as a daily routine

As I haven’t been hands-on for over a decade, I know I’m woefully “out of it” when it comes to tools, patterns, behaviours, libraries, and more. This is why I let those who are most passionate and knowledgable in different areas drive those for education. While I might be the “Creative Director”, I’m certainly not the smartest person in the room. I’ve always found folly in leaders who can’t admit they have become rusty and instead impose their years-old (sometimes decades-old) view on the work of recent grads. It’s interesting to think that most people will continue to apply the style and process they learned in school to situations 10+ years later. We never wanted that. We always wanted an environment of continuing education and progress where the top and bottom of seniority could learn equally from each other.

One simple piece of advice I learned — Hire great people, point them in the right direction and get out of the way. I’ve found great people always want to get better. Therefore, we wanted to always provide the option of continued education as part of the reason to work at Raft.

Adriana and Bessy reviewing work at the new office

Below is the email I sent after finishing training with Diane Gargiulo in NYC. This was one of many share-outs I, as everyone at Raft, would do. I would encourage all small companies to do the same to grow and build together.

From: Joe Fletcher <@raftcollective.com>
Subject: Communication tips (NYC training)

Good morning argo ams!

While traveling in NYC with meetings, I quietly worked with a communication coach on a few topics. I also managed to squeeze in 7 meetings with a variety of people. Most reconnecting from old contacts, but with argo around it was good to mention what had happened.

During training, one of the topics I was most interested in was how to capture and re-route questions. This could be used in difficult times to diffuse aggressive questioning, or if you’re speaking publicly with a difficult or negative question.

One way to format your answer is the following….

Situation — an agreeable statement of the current outlook

Complication — what has changed

Implied Question — leveraging the complication to ask a question

Answer — providing the answer you want to the question you just asked yourself.

Here is a simple example

Question (let’s make up an example from our recent merging with argo)

Don’t you believe your approach to business development is too simplistic now that you’re part of argo?

Response

I’m sure we can agree that different companies within different cultures have their own way of working. As argo is now a global company. Simply looking at a single vector may be too myopic or narrow. Shouldn’t we respect the individual approaches of countries and companies? I see our approach on BD as one method within a growing amount of methods, and thus opportunities, we can now deploy as a global company to work across a multitude of countries.

à Note, I’m still getting used to trying this out, so my example might not be the best, but hopefully it gives you an idea. I don’t answer the *exact question, but rather capture and re-route it.

You can look it up online for a few examples.

Other good details in re-routing were things like, after someone asked a question you don’t want to answer, start your response with phrasing similar to…

“another way of looking at it”

“That’s a good question, but I think the focus should be… (or “question we need to be looking at, is…”)

“that’s an interesting question, however I think the key issue we should be looking at”

“That’s good, although the issue we as most relevant for you would be…”

When doing this you of course want to understand what is behind the question in order to answer it, but doing that on your terms and with your reframing.

She echoed Richard with always discussing the value and results you’re bringing. Don’t waste time on process — get to the answer. Answer the question, provide details where necessary, then summarise (if you have multiple points). Get adjusted to structuring your answers and thoughts to come across more coherent and thoughtful.

I think that’s enough for now. I hope it gives everyone something to chew on. We can always talk 1:1 wherever anyone has questions.

Thanks and excited to be back next week. argo Austin tomorrow!

Joe

Footnote

For those looking for a great communication coach, I absolutely love Richard Klees and https://communicationpowerinc.com. We brought him to Amsterdam twice for group and individual training. If you’re in NYC, Diane Gargiulo from https://gargiulopartners.com/ was also great for handling delicate communication styles.

Claps are welcomed! We also have more articles on the story of Raft, a small Amsterdam design consultancy.
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Head of Creative at argodesign Amsterdam (https://www.argodesign.com/)