Get your team to share design progress

Most design managers would agree that sharing work earlier is the best way to grow as a designer and to get the best product out the door. But if your team is not in a place where they are actively sharing work in progress, it may take some heavy duty skills to change that. After talking with quite a few designer leaders from Intercom, Eventbrite, Radius, and others, we put together a list of things you can do to get designers to open up and share design work earlier.

Start with the right tools

Imagine today, if you told your designers to “share work more often.” How many different channels would they use? Coordination in general is a major headache for large teams. In fact, workers, on average, spend 65% of a workday collaborating and communicating with others. Of course you don’t want your design team to be spending more time sharing than designing, so you need to be careful how you disseminate this message of “always be sharing.” If you don’t have the right tools in place, you could be creating more work than necessary.

Today, sharing looks like sending an image through Slack, an InDesign file through a Dropbox link, shouting to the other side of the office, “Hey! Come look at me!” If you want your team to keep moving forward with minimal distractions, get the right tools in front of them and make it clear what the expectation is.

Test out design collaboration tools and see what works best for your team. Create a clear process for them to share, and make it conducive to your already existing environment.

Recognize it comes from the top

As with most team processes, in and out of design, structure and adoption comes from the top. Saying it one time isn’t going to cut it. You, as the design leader, need to champion this. Say it every day, start meetings with it, put it in your email signature for cryin’ out loud. If you want sharing work to become a habit for your entire team, it needs to have a tireless advocate.

If you’re unsure how to start that or you don’t want to come off as some design management dictator, ask your team, “What’s the best way I can hold us accountable?” Give them an opportunity to come up with the solutions so that when you’re bugging them ten times a day, you can blame (credit?) them for coming up with it in the first place. Win, win. High five to you, smarty pants.

Eradicate the self-indulgence of sharing design

One of the big reasons why designers have a hard time sharing their work is because they feel it has something to say about them – as a designer, as a person, etc. Some would argue that ego-stroking (aka “but you’re so good, you should share your work!”) is the best way to coax them into sharing, but this doesn’t work for everyone.

Rebecca Cox, Quora Advisor and former Product Designer, was quoted in a Forbes article saying, “Working on self-indulgent projects with really narrow views of the world that serve to impress themselves and/or other designers (inside or outside the company) can waste a lot of time.” And we agree.

Often times, designers think about how a particular piece will fit into his portfolio or how they can put their stamp on it. But sometimes, you just have to yank them out of their own head and remind them – it isn’t about you. A little rough? Sure. But worth a try.

Celebrate shitty work

Let’s step back a bit and talk about culture. In order for your team to share, they need to feel safe. Think about the culture your team has built and be honest about whether or not it’s a supportive environment. Without an existing culture of transparency and openness, it’s going to be a tough sell when you try to get your team to abide by these values.

If you’re already in a place where people feel good about sharing design, great! That just means you need the right tools in place. If your environment is a bit siloed and gloomy, focus on that first and see what you can do to combat that, even if it’s just within your design team. Celebrate the shitty work that people share and give them an incentive to keep putting themselves out there. You’d be surprised how far recognition goes.

No matter where you are on the spectrum of sharing, it’s important that you’re always digging deeper into how your team can increase transparency and work together, better. If you’re looking for a design collaboration tool for your team, check out Wake. It’s the fastest way designers can share work with one another.