The design huddle is a team practice, or ritual, that can help people work better together. If you haven’t tried it with your team, you should.

Huddle is a great word, isn’t it? It means to “crowd together” or “nestle closely”.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing at SPARCK Scotland.

OK, well maybe we haven’t been “nestling closely” – we’re not baby sparrows.

But a crowd of us has been getting together once a week to share our successes, failures, doubts, questions, feedback, and have all-round lovely conversations as a team.

Our huddles were born out a discussion between a few of our designers and researchers who wanted to build a stronger SPARCK community around our Glasgow office.

And over the past few months, we’ve done just that, and it’s helped us grow as professionals, as a team, and as individuals.

We take it in turns to present our work, ask for advice, crowdsource solutions, and share things we’ve learned. It’s positive, energising, and a highlight of my calendar!

But what makes it work?

Well, for a start, we committed to getting started, to giving it a proper go, and adapting as we went.

Now it’s been running for a while, I’ve had chance to think about the benefits, and have become a champion for the idea.

Those five reasons to huddle

It’s a safe space for feedback

Getting together as a team not only strengthens your bond but also creates a safe space for feedback.

It’s not about being told off or put down, it’s about helping each other solve problems, and develop.

And the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

After several months, we now feel more comfortable both giving feedback and receiving it, which makes us better at what we do.

The huddle broadens your perspective

As consultant designers and researchers, it’s easy to get stuck in the silo of your own project and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Getting together and sharing with each other what you’re working on, what challenges you’re facing, and what you’ve learned, can be a breath of fresh air.

You get ideas you can take back to your day-to-day work, and get fresh perspectives.

It builds a community of designers

Bringing together a group of people with similar roles helps you build a community built around shared skills and experience.

Nobody gets you quite as well as someone who does the same job and faces the same challenges.

You can be your geeky self and know that everybody else round the table is geeky in the same way.

It helps you feel a sense of belonging and connection (super important to SPARCK) that you can use to really master your craft.

It teaches you to communicate

Even the most experienced and expert SPARCKie will sometimes admit to being nervous about speaking or presenting.

The huddle is the safest possible place in which to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Having the opportunity to present your work, ask questions, and challenge opinions, makes you more ready to do the same with clients and stakeholders.

The huddle gets us together in person

Working remotely has many benefits and truth be told we may never go back to working in-person five days a week ever again.

But, equally, some of us crave that in-person experience if it’s for a good reason.

Our regular huddles are in-person meetings with purpose. We’re working together, and connecting, not just sitting near each other with our headphones on.

We encourage people to commit to being there in-person if they can. (But we practice what we preach and there will always be a dial-in option.)

What we've learned from all this huddling

We started our huddles because the number of designers and researchers at SPARCK Scotland was growing rapidly.

In our team, we now have a group of people who specialise in different disciplines and bring with them a vast range of skills and experience.

And we knew we could capitalise on that to give them a sense of belonging not only to SPARCK (worldwide) but also to SPARCK Scotland in particular.

So, what have we learned?

  • Having a great team of people who you can be yourself with is priceless.
  • No question is a silly question and admitting you don’t know something helps you grow.
  • Feedback is a gift when given in the right way.

Setting up your huddle

First, don't wait. Give it a go right now.

All you need to do is:

  • Find a time and send a diary invite (in-person and remote).
  • Remind everyone to bring something to the huddle.
  • Set an agenda… or don’t, because spontaneous conversations are often most valuable.

Secondly, when running a session, try to keep it positive. It should lift people up, not bring them down.

Finally, keep adjusting and adapting. You probably won't nail the format with your first go. And as the team grows, in both size, and confidence, the format of the huddle might need to change, too.

Follow us on LinkedIn and check out the Design Journal for more tips on managing design teams.

Written by Amy Middleton - Service Designer and Squad Lead, Glasgow