Escape to the Country: Bonding as a Gousto Product Design team

TL;DR: We went to the New Forest, played with horses, bonded as a Product Design team with a bunch of activities and aligned on the hard and soft skills that make up Product Design. At the next offsite, we’ll be exploring our shared team vision and OKRs.

We’ve scaled rapidly at Gousto over the past year, meaning lots of new faces have joined our stellar product design team! Whilst we’re all embedded in product teams, we still work closely together with weekly design collabs, crits, reviews, pairings, etc.

However, something we all felt was long overdue was a design offsite!

Why? One of our key principles for how we work at Gousto is to create a safe environment where people can be their best selves. This wouldn’t be possible without a good dose of vulnerability that in turn creates trust. This offsite was designed to learn about the individuals that make up the product design team at Gousto and for us to bond with one another. And in the future — once we establish this as a regular activity — we would use this space for other initiatives such as thinking about the future of design at Gousto.

It also happened to be that our Head of Product Design — Nina — has a beautiful place with horses in the New Forest. And who’s going to say no to unwinding in the countryside and spending the day with horses?

Starting the day

We started bright and early, catching an 08:20 train from Waterloo to Brockenhurst, quickly figuring out who the morning people are (and who they are not 😴).

After arriving at our destination, we were greeted by a few neighbouring horses. This made a welcome change to WFH or commuting to our office in Shepherd’s Bush.

Photo of us arriving in the New Forest
Arriving in the New Forest

We went for a short walk around the place to see Nina’s horses, who we’d heard so much about over video calls.

Photo of our Product Designer — Elsa — with Daisy (nicely nicknamed Doo Dah)
Here’s our Product Designer — Elsa — with Daisy (nicely nicknamed Doo Dah)

Once we’d played with the horses and stretched our legs, we went inside for the first activity of the day!

Team bonding #1: The most important survey of them all

All of us in the team are familiar with surveys, but mainly because we send them out for user research. This time, our Product Design Manager — Teri — created a survey for us to answer. She aptly named it ‘The most important survey of them all’ to ensure we didn’t miss it in our inbox! (Despite this, I still missed it and was doing it the night before 😅)

We answered questions about ourselves, such as ‘If I could pick a superpower…’ and ‘Thank you for listening to my TED Talk on…’.

We then got Post-it notes and Sharpies (would it be an offsite without these?!) to guess who we thought answered what.

This was the first activity, designed for us all to get to know one another. We had a good laugh with some of the answers, like Alessia’s weird fact ‘my nose has like no bones and I can squash it to my face’ or Kelly using a whiteboard to teach her Beanie Babies what she learnt at school aged 5 and deciding she wanted to be a teacher when grown up.

Photo of the whiteboard with everyone’s survey answers and guesses of who wrote what
Everyone’s survey answers with guesses of who wrote what

Team bonding #2: Exploring the global ‘cuisine’ of our designers

We’re a diverse bunch of people and we spent the next activity exploring and celebrating this. On a map printout, we each made lines to where we were from and shared our roots. It was great seeing the diversity of our team, from around the UK to Italy, Kenya, Shanghai and more.

One by one, we got up and gave a lightning talk about our lives, origins and what influenced us to be the way we are.

Photo of Stratis, who has recently joined as our newest Product Design Manager, telling us about his roots in Greece, moving to Boston, New York and finally London
Here’s Stratis, who has recently joined as our newest Product Design Manager, telling us about his roots in Greece, moving to Boston, New York and finally London

After hearing from everyone, it was time to understand the different personalities that make up our awesome Product Design team.

Personality exercise #1: Exploring our ‘colour’ personality

The next activity was for each of us to do a colour personality test to see what ‘colour’ we are:

  1. Blue — Conservative and structured
  2. Orange — Progressive and innovative
  3. Yellow — Optimistic and enthusiastic
  4. Green — Balanced and practical

We’ve done these kinds of tests before such as the Predictive Index Behavioural Assessment and the Saboteur Assessment, and we found them an interesting way to see what makes each of us tick but also what irks us.

This colour personality test consisted of 25 questions and at the end, it would tell us which colour we are and why. In all honesty, we ended the test and found we were all ‘green’, so we have a feeling something went wrong. Nevertheless, we went around the room and discussed what ‘colour’ personality type we thought each of us was and why.

For example, we all immediately agreed that Oli is a yellow, as he comes to every meeting with a smile on his face and is full of positivity.

It was interesting to hear the rationale why we felt this as people exhibited certain traits or characteristics, and at the end of the exercise, we felt we knew more about each other.

Personality exercise #2: Product Designer Recipe Card

After lunch (and another visit to the horses!), we decided to delve deeper into our personalities with a cleverly designed Product Designer Recipe Card.

This card, designed to emulate our actual Gousto recipe cards, asked about our key ingredients (purpose, strengths, passions, weaknesses…), allergens (what takes away our energy), pairs well with (what gets the best out of us) and best way to serve (how we like to communicate).

It was a really fun way to get some information about us down on paper and help us work better together as a team.

Template of the Product Designer Recipe Card, which you can see and use for yourself on Miro
Our Product Designer Recipe Card template. Here’s a template on Miro, in case you want to try this yourself with your team.

Design exercise: Defining what it all means

After learning more about each other, our personality types and how to work best together, we began our design exercise of the day. We wanted to explore the different ideas and principles that we think make up Product Design and align on definitions for them.

We started by spending 10 minutes writing down the skills we felt were needed from Product Designers, splitting these into both hard and soft skills.

After 10 minutes were up, we wrote these down on the whiteboard and selected a few that we felt had contentious definitions — the ones that we didn’t wholly align on so wanted to discuss further.

These were:

  • UX writing
  • Copywriting
  • Interaction design (IXD)
  • Behavioural science
  • User experience design (UXD)
  • Service design
  • Systems thinking

We spent some time writing our own definitions for these on Post-its and put these up on the whiteboard. It felt strange to be putting physical Post-its on an actual whiteboard after spending the past two years collaborating virtually on Miro!

We read our definitions out and began to align on our understanding, as we felt this was important in ensuring a shared understanding for Product Design at Gousto.

Photo of Nina reading out the definitions written by the team
Nina read out some of the definitions written by the team

That’s a wrap 🌯

And that was it for the day! It was our first offsite and it was so much fun keeping it quite light-touch and focused on the people that make up the design team.

Top 3 takeaways from the day:

  1. We’re a really diverse team with roots in different countries and interesting stories of what brought us here together at Gousto
  2. Understanding someone’s unique ‘recipe card’ is really important in working effectively with that person
  3. The discipline of Product Design is complex and there’s no single path to success — there are so many skills within and we all have different strengths and target areas for growth

We agreed on some next steps, such as:

  1. Aligning on all of the definitions for hard and soft skills
  2. Mapping our personality types and adding these into a new starter pack as we grow our team
  3. The plan for the next offsite: to explore our team vision and OKRs

Lastly, like any sane team should on a Friday night, we went to a local pub for dinner and drinks, reflected on our offsite and headed back to the big smoke feeling energised about the great things that are to come for our awesome product design team here at Gousto.

Photo of the Product Design team at Gousto
Here’s the Product Design team at Gousto with our 2 honorary horse members

Here’s a template on Miro for the activities we did during our offsite, in case you want to try them yourself with your team.

If you’re interested in joining our next offsite, check out our open roles 😉

Thanks for reading! As you made it all the way through, here’s a bonus pic of the horses wearing their winter coats!

Photo of the horses wearing their winter coats
The horses wearing their winter coats

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Gousto Engineering & Data Blog

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Ajay Shah

Ajay Shah

Senior Product Designer at Otta

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