Research & Design Strategy

Navigating the new

Late last year, our leadership team at Design Concepts announced the long-in-the-making decision to relocate our Madison workplace from our current suburban office park to the rapidly developing East Washington corridor of downtown Madison.

It’s a decision that puts us physically in the center of what’s happening in technology and innovation in Madison while also giving us the opportunity to re-envision how we want to work, team and tell our story in the future.

While it’s a decision that makes sense for our business, our teams and our brand, like with any big workplace change the announcement was not met with universal enthusiasm. That’s the thing. Newness brings a high degree of uncertainty, complexity and variability. When you make the decision to embark upon a new path there are often still more questions than answers. So how do you navigate that path in a way that supports everyone involved through the uncertain and unknown?

As an innovation firm, we know a little something about navigating unknown territories — whether it be new processes or tools, products or competitive landscapes. When entering any new territory, it’s important to start paying extremely close attention to communication. Don’t just assume the communication is happening and your message is heard. Instead, take an intentional, carefully mapped approach. Because just like design, communication can be used as a tool to manage complexity.

As we gear up for our move next year, we’ve developed five best practices for navigating the new through a thoughtfully designed, open and collaborative communication process:

1. Co-create the path 

This shouldn’t be any surprise, but selling doesn’t work well when there are competing needs and emotions are running high. Working together to create the solution allows the team to align on what matters most. The ideal outcome is a communication plan that mixes one-way with two-way communication and larger events with the smaller, more frequent touch points. The resulting communication plan has a rhythm, almost like a sheet of music.

Example: For our new workplace, we solicited targeted feedback on the things that we could actually act upon, like furniture layouts, brand patterning and privacy screens, and nominated key individuals to act as representatives for their departments. The representatives act as a funnel of information for the change team, keeping their ears on the ground and making sure every voice is being heard.

2. Develop a platform for sharing stories

Any change takes time and with time there are multiple decisions, updates, schedules and events to share. For any team working through long-term change, it’s worth the time to invest in a platform for sharing these stories.

Example: For our new workplace, we created a quick-and-easy website on to give our teams a go-to place for not only referencing information, but also giving feedback. To make it memorable, we gave the site the cute code name Operation Butter, drawing on the dairy history of our new workplace location.

When you make the decision to embark upon a new path there are often still more questions than answers.

Let’s talk about how we can help move your business forward.

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