Creative Coaching at Fast Company's Innovation Festival
Fast Company hired me to coach creatives on how to assemble multi-disciplinary, creative teams and foster collaboration within them during their 2018 Innovation Festival in New York City.
Role - Design Lead & Facilitator
I designed original workshops for the festival and facilitated them over the course of several days during the festival.
Me + 1 designer.
We partnered with a sponsor, 3M, as well as leadership for the festival. Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company, Stephanie Mehta, hired me directly.
Context & Approach
Fast Company's Innovation Festival is a nearly week-long creative experience in Manhattan's core that exposes participants to the biggest names in business, design and culture. Over 10,000 participants attended the 2018 festival. They came for more than keynotes; interactive workshops and open studios are also a huge draw for attendees. I was asked by Editor-and-Chief of Fast Company, Stephanie Mehta, to lead a series of hands-on workshops throughout the festival, aimed at coaching participants in creative team-building and collaboration.
Coaching & Development
integrating skills assessment, collaborative play, gamification and and Design Thinking taught participants how to develop strategies for collaboration across unique and varied skillsets. Participants used appreciative inquiry techniques to identify their personal skillsets and formed teams based on compatibilities. The teams then tested their ability to work together as they attempted to prevent a bagel heist (we were in NYC after all).
To gain more clarity on these questions, I led ethnographic interviews with 22 subject matter experts and users, exploring their experiences broadly and digging deep into challenges. I spoke to accessibility leaders from Microsoft and Bell, as well as users from different regions of Canada. I used qualitative coding to distill the information into design specifications for a series of co-design workshops.
I led 3 sets of 2-day codesign workshops with persons with disabilities and executives from federally regulated industries in February and March of 2020. Workshops took place in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. I had a GIS map of created, and based workshop locations areas with the densest and most diverse areas of pertinent industry. C-Suite executives from across the country and persons with visual, auditory, cognitive, intellectual and/or motor impairments, as well as neuro-divergence, attended as participants.
Traditional co-design activities aren't accessible; we needed to adapt ours and test them extensively with persons with disabilities before the workshops. Our Montreal workshop was bilingual, with two sets of interpreters. Activities like scenario development and journey mapping became facilitated conversations with the support of interpreters and assistive technology. We doubled the time required for each exercise and practiced them extensively. We iterated on designs several times before the workshops and it paid off.
Participants told us these were the most inclusive events that they had been a part of, and were moved. It went a long way to build trust in government.
Recruiting participants challenging. My colleagues and I spent days on the phone trying to convince industry reps to take two days from work to attend sessions. We also recruited at a local conference. We found users with disabilities by looking for regional service providers and using a snowball sampling approach. Procuring services to support the workshops was sometimes challenging. In Vancouver, we spent weeks looking for support personnel with skills in AAC. In the end, we managed to reach our target participation of around 40 people per workshop.
My intention with these workshops was to provide as accessible and inclusive an experience as possible in order for capacity building to be part of the experience. Through these workshops we were not only learning what persons with disabilities expected from federally regulated industry; we were showing industry reps what persons with disability expected from them. It was very effective.
I also wrote a survey for those who couldn't attend the workshops. TD's Innovation Lab participated in our research through a focus group too.
As project lead, I designed the strategy and activities for the project as whole, and led the delivery of each project milestone. I also managed client relationships. This project involved a lot of risk and, especially in a government context, this never goes down easy. I spent late nights working with clients to explain the design process, protect its integrity, and strategize risk mitigation. In addition, I also managed relationships with other departments and regulatory agencies whose work overlapped with ours.