Workshops & collaboration - best practices and approaches for design collaboration

Methods and activities should call back to previous methods and activities

Updated on Sunday, April 24, 2022

An important value prop for workshops is that each of the activities and methods build on each other. To reinforce that point while facilitating, you need to regularly refer back to something previous in a current activity, a call back.

There are several things you can call-back to:

Each of these activities produce little keystones you can refer back to as you move the participants through the rest of the workshop.

Icebreakers for call backs

A good ice breaker does a few things, create a shared experience, intro participants to your tools and mechanics, and, ideallly, start to frame participant thinking. It's that last bit, the framing that can create a good callback.

For one workshop re-envisioning airport food service, we broke the ice by sharing our roadtrip fast food dirty secrets. As the workshop marched on, participants would refer back to experiences they had at their roadtrip stops. We even used them to reframe questions. How would A&W approach this idea? Etc.

Un-related but fun icebreakers can be a call-back too. In another workshop envisioning future workplace experiences, the icebreaker brought up avocados, and I referred to avocados throughout the rest if the workshop. And at the very end, I even closed with an avocado joke.

Workshops are a story you write ahead of time and then experience in real time. Call-back repetition reinforces concepts and keeps you aligned/from wandering off... unless you need to.

Examples for callbacks

Each of my activities is always prepared with an example. LIke a good icebreaker, a good example is anakagous to what the participants are doing, but doesn't color their thinking.

One of my favorites is to use Wile E. Coyote as a fictional participant and to do each activfity from the perspective of someone trying to innovate themselves to a Roadrunner feast.

If all of your examples use the same characters or theme, they draw a nice line through the workshop that triggers participants to think back to predvious activities.

Goals and vision for callbacks

When you work through goal and vision activities at the beginning of a workshop, that vision and those (prioritized) goals create alignment at that moment. And you can reinforce that alignment throughout the workshop when you explicitly refer back to those outcomes.

Personas for callbacks

Just like goals and vision, creating user models and personas early on in a workshop provides an opportunity to constantly refer back to those users later. If you follow with system or journey mapping or sketching or some sort of interface ideation, obvious call backs to the relevant personas reinforces alignment and keeps everyone on the same page.