This past week, we had the opportunity to observe a client in action to help determine the best plan for his business design and structure. Our goal was to observe a cohort retreat to figure out how to leverage his content onto an online training program.
The retreat was held at a picturesque lodge in the woodsy area of Greenville, MI. We arrived in the middle of a communal breakfast. I suppose now is the time to mention that, while I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, I was picturing something more along the lines of a conference room in an event center. The cohort retreat turned out to be a much more intimate experience, with the members staying overnight together in the lodge. They even participated in corporate worship, prayer, and facilitated discussion.
I wanted to make sure I was observing the right things and making the proper connections between the experience and the solution. One way I looked at the cohort was in terms of what would be the most effective way to get members engaged in it. Keeping in mind that the end result would be a training program to market to different groups of leaders, I noted that the audience members were big drivers of conversation and ideas. Throughout the morning, everyone had responses to the presentation slides and examples to discuss.
I concluded from this observation that extending communication beyond the cohort retreat itself could be an integral aspect of the solution. Discussion forums could be one possibility. In this case, my insight was making the connection between the animated discussion and the importance of personal relationships and then figuring out how to extend it beyond the cohort retreat experience.
Another way I observed was in terms of general deliverables and how some ideas from the cohort would leverage themselves onto the web. In keeping with the atmosphere of facilitated discussion, I felt that the course could include weekly articles or video posts for cohort members to view and discuss. Cohort leaders could also post their insights to help guide the discussion. This would keep the relationships between members going, and it would allow relevant discussion to continue.
While listening to the discussions throughout the course of the morning, I picked up on some other perceived needs. One issue that the clients’ industry has is lack of trust between smaller and larger organizations. I immediately saw that the cohort program could be a remedy to the situation, uniting the organization leaders under their common goal. Leaders would also need ways to implement changes and ideas that they learned through the cohort experience. This could mean lessons and homework in the cohort program that would guide leaders and teach them how to implement those changes effectively.
We also conducted a focus group while at the cohort retreat. We intended to find out what the participants thought about taking the program to the next level. We got a lot of feedback, which let us know that the retreat experience was indispensable, not to be completely replaced by an online experience. Any online cohort would have to be supplemented by at least one retreat. There would also need to be a way to introduce the program to leaders in the industry. A common thought was that there should be a workshop to debut at a conference to introduce people to the content. This would create curiosity and excitement around the cohort program, leading people to sign up.
I learned quite a bit that day and was able to observe with an eye for business and design solutions. It’s interesting to be able to look at a client in action instead of just collaborating around a table. One thing is for sure: as a designer, it’s important to be able to gather information in different ways and from different sources to come up with the best business-minded solution.