Creating a Toolkit for Collaboration
October 25, 2016

Creating a Toolkit for Collaboration


Collaboration is on the rise in workplaces as businesses recognize it as one of the key components for increasing innovation and improving employee experience. Over the last few years, we’ve upped our collaboration game at SmallBox, in part, by listing it as one of our core values, and then bringing intention toward how we approach our work.

What once was a black box of strategy or design for a major project has now become a collaborative process between us and our clients. We bring our expertise in research, strategy and problem solving, clients bring expertise in their organization. Together, we go further than we could have separately.

To support a collaborative, human-centered process, we rely on a collection of methods – exercises and activities that allow us to diverge and converge around challenges and ideas. These methods help us collaborate in a variety of ways, from wireframing in a group, to researching and gathering organizational values, to understanding tone of voice, and beyond!

We create and test new methods (usually on ourselves first) on the regular, either by building on the ideas of others (such as those from resources like Universal Methods of Design and 101 Design Methods) or starting from scratch to craft something custom.

Experience mapping with a side of play. Game on.

A photo posted by SmallBox (@smallbox) on


As we’ve continued to build out our methods (we’ve got more than 50 at the moment!), we’ve corralled them into a repository that we like to call the SmallBox Collaborative Toolkit of Awesome™ (okay, okay, I just added the ‘of Awesome’ part). This repository helps us accomplish a few things: we can share methods with other teammates who may not be familiar, and we can easily keep track of all the methods that we have used and have at our disposal, and we can easily share them with our clients, should they want to lead the activity themselves in the future.

We’ve written the methods in our toolkit in a way that provides step-by-step directions, important considerations, challenges that might come up, and how to document any activity or outcomes for meaningful use. Here’s an example of a method, the 20-Second Test, from the Toolkit of Awesome:

›› Download a PDF of this bad boy here

Why bother with learning or designing new collaborative methods? It doesn’t make sense to simply throw people together into a room and have them figure things out as they go. We’ve all been in free-form brainstorm sessions where nothing really moves forward, or the same old ideas pop up. Using existing techniques, or creating your own, helps people know how to contribute. Bringing people together to solve with a shared framework sets us up to design the best possible outcomes.