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Creating a culture of continuous learning

  • Designed and developed many of Twitter’s internal tools for giving feedback
  • Created courses for building prototyping skills
  • Launched a leadership training program that’s available to everyone, regardless of whether they are seasoned managers or just getting started in their career

This takes work

Inviting one or two speakers to stop by your office can seem pretty straightforward and easy. You might start by asking people you know in the industry to visit — that’s exactly what we used to do! Occasionally in the past, we’ve had friends of our team stop by for a visit, sometimes for a presentation and, sometimes, just for a casual chat — visits from John Maeda, Jan Chipchase, Jessica Hische, Kat Holmes, Dann Petty, and Mills and the UsTwo Games crew. All of these visits were very loosely planned and infrequent. They were fun and sparked new ways to think about our work, but we didn’t have a strategy for what we hoped speakers would talk about or who we should invite to come visit us. We felt that we weren’t reaching outside of our immediate network. Getting people scheduled regularly was difficult, and it was hard to keep the momentum going.

Irene Au, Design Partner at Khosla Ventures (Photo credit: Paul Stamatiou)

Getting started

Our 2018 goal was to have one speaker every month. Before inviting speakers, we wanted to have a clear sense of which topics to focus on, and we wanted that to come from our team. We worked with managers across the team to map out career and craft related topics that our team would benefit from, and ran surveys across our team to understand what kinds topics would be interesting and inspiring for them. After a few rounds of informal research, we saw a handful of themes emerge that our team wanted to learn more about:

  • Negotiation
  • Effective communication with executives
  • Inspiring creative processes
  • Animation and motion
Ben Blumenfeld, co-director of Designer Fund
Maria Giudice, co-author of “Rise of the DEO”

Sharing with the community

After the first few speakers visited us, we thought that these presentations and conversations might interest others, and may be even more valuable as an influence outside our team. So, shortly after starting our speaker program, we started to invite our colleagues in Product Management and Engineering to join, and then we opened the invitation to anyone at the company that was interested. On two occasions, speakers that we brought in were later invited back to give their talks to some of our partner teams. Our designers and researchers work hard everyday to promote a customer focus at Twitter, but sometimes it’s helpful for colleagues to hear an outside perspective, too.

What we’ve learned

We’re nine months into the year and have had some extraordinary people visit our studio to share their stories, work, and insights. We’ve met people with long and impressive careers, and speakers that are still establishing themselves. We’ve met people that are already well known in their industry, and some who lead a more private life. As we hoped, every speaker brings a unique perspective to the themes that we wanted to learn more about this year.

  • We realized that for many people, speaking is part of their work and they will want to be paid. We respect that, so we were always transparent up front that we did not have a budget for speaker fees.
  • Design and research talks are interesting to more people than just designers and researchers! Invite your colleagues in engineering, data science, sales, marketing, product management, etc. — it’s a great way to share design and research across your company.
  • The design, research, creative, and tech communities are big. There are many interesting voices that you can reach out to that are outside the standard conference speaker circuit.
  • Themes are way to help bring focus when looking for speakers to invite, but don’t expect your speakers to stick to those themes tightly. They’re just a starting point.
  • Scheduling is hard, and you should be prepared to be very responsive to the many back-and-forths it can take to settle on a time and date. Respect people’s time. It can also take a while to find a date that works for your guests, so be prepared for long lead times.
  • Your team is busy. Even though we always hear really positive feedback when we host speakers, it can be a challenge getting people to take a break from their work. You’ll need to put a lot of time and effort in to marketing the talks internally. We remind people regularly leading up to the day of with team announcements, emails, Slack messages, calendar reminders, and posters (lots and lots of posters).

Twitter Design & Research

More than 280 characters from the designers, content strategists, and researchers at Twitter.

Mike Kruzeniski

Written by

Design Director at Twitter

Twitter Design & Research

More than 280 characters from the designers, content strategists, and researchers at Twitter.