Recently, Levvel’s Product Innovation team got together to reflect on the practice’s growth and experiences over the past year. We spent the past 12 months helping our clients create new digital products through strategy workshops, product audits, and UX services. In the process, we grew the team by an order of magnitude and developed new services and methodologies to help our clients and each other. Some things worked and some didn’t, but we learned a lot about who we were and started seeing patterns in our thinking.
In order to operationalize our collective learnings, we decided to workshop our own practice. We’ve run many product strategy workshops for our clients over the past year, so using the same methodology on ourselves only made sense. The goal of the workshop was to define a list of concrete operating principles that would guide our design process and our client interactions in a consistent and scalable way.
Before we began, we set some basic ground rules. Each principle would need to apply broadly to how we treat both our clients and each other. The only other requirement was that each principle be something that could reasonably be disagreed with. Universally agreeable principles don’t make for a great competitive advantage.
The workshop itself was a ton of fun and not nearly as hard as we expected. After a few hours of affinity mapping and intense creative energy, it became obvious that we already had a lot of alignment on our values. At the end of the session, we settled on the following six principles, in no particular order:
- Real Problems Cross Disciplines
- Design is Not Art
- Relationships are Everything
- Clients are Team Members
- Always Move Forward
- Creativity is Cultivated
In the months since, we’ve been pleasantly and repeatedly surprised by just how much value we’ve gotten from our newly penned principles. They repeatedly get brought up in sales meetings, workshops, and project planning meetings to guide us in the right direction. When projects become complicated or we have to make difficult hiring decisions, our principles seem to naturally surface and guide us in the right direction.
The more we use the principles, the more valuable and powerful they become.
If you run a team and haven’t done something similar, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Having a clearly articulated set of principles helps on a number of fronts. For a client-facing business like ours, principles shape the conversations you have and end up driving which clients you do work with. The work you do then feeds your ability to grow the team with high-quality talent.
Even if your design team isn’t externally facing, principles can drive your process and help create an identity for your group. As they become part of the culture, they make it easier to onboard new team members and show them what’s expected of them.
In order to share our principles, we wrote a blog series on all six, each post written by a different member of the Levvel Product Innovation team. Creating the principles was a shared effort, so it only makes sense that we share them together. We hope you enjoy our thoughts on design, team building, and customer service, and we’d love to hear your feedback.