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The higher purpose of design

Making the world a better place through design – too ambitious or something we need to do? How can we apply sustainability to our everyday work? Our UX team set out to answer these questions and more at their recent innovation jam.

A woman and man brainstorm a design project on a board

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how are they connected to what we do? During the yearly Visma UX Days, our designers looked at how we can connect the SDGs to show the positive impact of our products and how to apply them to our everyday work.

Perhaps we underestimate the power of having a higher purpose with our work. Everyone wants to do good. It’s human nature. That is why superheroes become our role models. Imagine that the results of your daily work had a measurable positive impact on society. How would that make you feel? These are the questions we worked with during an Innovation Jam at our UX & Service Design Days this year.

Innovation jam 

An innovation Jam is a creative workshop where the participants generate ideas around a specific topic or try to find a solution to a specific problem. This includes discussions, ideation, sketching and presenting. 

The challenge for this Innovation jam was to create a prototype of an app that should work towards solving one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and to use storytelling to pitch our projects to our colleagues.

The session started with a very inspiring presentation made by Liza Collin, Market Readiness Director at Visma. Liza showed us how Visma’s products can change society through design and how we can connect this to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. After that, she showed us how to create a compelling strategic narrative using storytelling. 

Liza Collin showed the group how to create a compelling strategic narrative
Liza Collin showed the group how to create a compelling strategic narrative

Brainstorming tactics to use on workshops

The next step was brainstorming and creating! Our workshop was hosted and guided by Abdallah Aberouch, Victoria Bondarchuk and Cecilie Campey. We were divided into four teams of 5 people. These steps and different brainstorming tactics helped us on our way to the final pitch:

One of the many creative sketches created during the brainstorming session
One of the many creative sketches created during the brainstorming session
  1. Learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Choose two personal favourites and pitch them to the team.
  2. Discuss in the group and choose only one goal as an inspiration for our project.
  3. Write a list of possible challenges that our project might solve. 
  4. “Crazy8” brainstorming – Create a grid that contains 8 empty squares in an A4 paper, then draw or write your ideas. One minute for each square. 
  5. Pitch your ideas to your teammates and pick two favourite ideas together.
  6. Choose the best ideas and create an app prototype. 
  7. Use narrative storytelling to pitch your final project to the other teams.
Each of the groups presented their ideas in front of the other participants
Each of the groups presented their ideas in front of the other participants

Tips for a successful workshop

  • To work in a blended group of colleagues you never met before was both challenging and fun. In my team, we were from four different countries and no one had English as their native language. We had to create a positive and creative atmosphere right away, which we did.
  • Short deadlines. To be able to deliver some usable results after each short brainstorming session makes you very effective and focused. 
  • Respect and find a way (and time) to listen to each team member’s point of view. Really listen to understand, not just to reply.
Intent listening while ideas are presented within the groups
Intent listening while ideas are presented within the groups

My main takeaways

The workshop was the best way to support the theoretical part of the day and to learn new ways of working. 

Here are my personal takeaways from this session:

  • Brainstorming with many small short deadlines is pretty effective. You simply don’t have time to waste and a little bit of time pressure wakes up your creativity.
  • The narrative tone of voice is very important for pitching your ideas to the group. It’s all about storytelling.
  • Try to change your point of view.  Start to see yourself as a contributor to the world instead of regular practical designer/worker. It will make your everyday work more meaningful and fun. 

Nowadays, sustainability is a basic criterion of each business’ development and narrative storytelling seems to be the best way of reaching your potential customers. However, not everyone in your company might be familiar with your new inspiring ways of working, while they’re still doing their best. That is exactly why workshops like this Innovation jam are so important – to give a higher purpose to design and every other part of our work! 

We all need a higher purpose with what we are doing. Saving the world a bit at a time – who would say no to that job? 

Read more about our sustainability initiatives

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