Five reasons we invite our clients to design with us

Sharing the process is a powerful way to reduce project risk.

I attended the Adaptive Path course in San Francisco last November. It got me thinking about ways that I could be a better design consultant. One thing that I was reminded of was the value in sharing our process with our clients whenever we can.

Too often we miss valuable opportunities to invite our clients into the design process. Maybe we skip this because we feel it can be risky to let clients see how we work. Maybe inviting the client feels like more of a distraction from precious work time

So, a coworker and I invited a client to help us look at interview data. We completed one-hour interviews with eight executives. We knew our notes were full of great quotes and comments from the client’s leadership team.

We summarized everything and put quotes on Post-It notes. We put them on the wall to make the data visual. Then, we asked the client project team to help us sort through the notes. Together, we grouped the notes based on themes.

I was reminded that sharing the process is a powerful way to reduce project risk.

1. More smart people = more ideas

Consultants should nurture good ideas, no matter where they come from. We want to come with as many insights as possible, especially at the beginning of a project. That’s the only way to get a wide perspective on the problems and challenges.

2. It’s kind to share

Sharing the design process with clients shows respect and builds trust. We never intentionally keep secrets from clients, but sometimes consultants can unintentionally create the perception the design process is a black box of creativity. It’s better to share what you’re up to whenever possible.

3. Surprises are risky

The earlier and more often we include clients in our process, the more we reduce everyone’s exposure to uncertainty. Clients trust us with work that is important to them. In a way, they’re giving up control to us. That’s why it’s good to invite clients into the process to learn our approach and lend perspective. Witnessing and creating outcomes reduces the chances of surprise. It also forges a sense of shared ownership, and that’s key to any long-lasting relationship.

4. Teach a friend to fish

It’s much more powerful to teach clients how we come up with design directions then to simply hand them our results. They become a champion for your work. They tell their own stories with genuine passion because they had a hand in the designs. Overall, inviting the client to participate makes collaboration more efficient and productive.

5. More think, less ink

The more you share processes with clients, the less you have to write about your methods in deliverable documents. Clients experienced the knowledge firsthand. They already get it. This enables designers to spend more time on the solution and less time writing on the processes or projected outcomes. Less time communicating benefits means more resources spent on creating great work.

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