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Collaboration Pattern #5: The Design Process


Innovation is often perceived as a neat and orderly process, but it’s actually messy and unpredictable, and the desire for it to be orderly and predictable blocks the very learning and innovation that we need to be successful in our work together.


It’s helpful for participants to understand right up front that design-led innovation will not be a linear process that goes straight from problem to solution. It will feel messy and unclear at times, especially we they are full of new information and insights with no clear path forward, and that's a good thing. It's in the messiness and chaos of overwhelming complexity where we let go of our biases and assumptions, and set aside our favored solutions to open up to new possibilities.


We often present the Design Squiggle, first squiggled by Damien Newman at Central Office of Design, in the very first meeting of a network and explain that the process won’t be linear and neat and ask people to share with the middle of the process (the messy part) may feel like to them. It's fun to see folks visibly relax because although we're telling them to expect a big mess, it's reassuring to normalize the confusion and uncertainty that we know is coming.


For more details on each of the 6 Patterns in Collaboration, see below.

  1. Diverging & Converging

  2. Checking Back

  3. Leveraging Tensions

  4. Spiraling

  5. The Design Process

  6. Working Concurrently

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