Why to choose a fuzzy design process at Nubank?

A few words about co-designing and chaos in a world of numbers in a flat organization

Here at Nubank, we fight complexity every day to make people’s lives better. This is only possible because we do the same to make our daily work more efficient and fun. Individually, we don’t know every answer; we believe that only by building a truly global and diverse team will we be able to challenge the status quo.

As a flat organization, we always encourage people to collaborate, and the overall sense of ownership and responsibility allows this to happen more and often. It isn’t uncommon, for example, to see an intern questioning our CEO during an All-Hands meeting.

As a team that drives product development since the ideation phase, the role of the Design Chapter is to make sure we have a delightful product experience bringing together everyone inside (and outside) Nubank to work together towards a common goal. And we don’t have a perfect formula to make this happen; good design work isn’t a set of steps in a frozen process, but an ever-changing approach to solving a problem. 

Chaos as a friend

We are changing the way we work and collaborate as a team and as a company all the time. In just a few weeks, we can drastically change the way we do our meetings and how designers fit within each squad. We are always looking for new ways to innovate and to work better together, no matter the process (or lack of it), and also looking at what the industry is doing, without trying to find a perfect solution.

Designers, for example, are not stuck in one place; we usually move around the company finding the right way to solve a problem. This means we work with different people, constraints, points of view, and inputs, all the time, keeping the daily routine messy but productive.

We believe there are many different ways to solve a problem when there are different goals, resources, people, skills, and time constraints. We believe in different ways to be more efficient.

Since we don’t believe in a perfect formula or process, our main challenge is to create a collaborative environment that is open, fun, flexible, and even chaotic, with few restrictions and never looking for a quick or unique solution. Our Design Principles allow us to have a fuzzier process, reflecting on more solid arguments when giving feedback to a colleague’s work in a way that is not only based on personal opinions.

Co-designing

Sometimes, within a project, we can have few iterations and a successful result, or several iterations with a not so assertive output. And this isn’t something we can anticipate, but it is something we learn from to adjust upcoming workflows.

It’s common to see designers working in pairs with other designers, engineers, or product managers — everyone looking towards the same goal. This can happen around someone’s desk, through Slack, in a meeting, even using Figma or some other tool.

The most important thing is that everyone involved in that project is always aware of what is going on, virtually in real-time.

We have also recently started a series of meetings where we co-design. These hands-on sessions work like a window as a project is moving on, and are always pre-booked in our calendars so people (designers or not) can suggest themes and activities to explore.

In essence, it’s a quick and low-cost activity, usually involving a basic brainstorming or a sketching session. These are improvised activities that enable collaboration and empathy to speed up an exploration phase.

A co-design session in progress.

Every session has a problem owner who chooses how to conduct the conversation. They briefly share the context and all required information, such as current data points, goals (something measurable), a few constraints (even though we avoid exposing all limitations when we believe they might hinder creativity and unexpected solutions), project principles, business requirements, etc.

Everyone is encouraged to design and prototype. If they don’t have sketching or prototyping skills, they can use their creativity to explain and expose their ideas.

A successful co-design session is not the one that brings what could look like a perfect solution, but the one that finds new constraints and raises more questions than answers.

As the Google Ventures Design team says, “even when everyone is well-meaning, there are many subtle ways a critique can go off the rails and hurt your design process”. There is no better way to critique than by working together to make your point through a new solution. Our co-design sessions have helped us fail less and rely less on emergency fixes, while also fostering collaboration within all areas at Nubank.

Although this current workflow has been helping us to build great products and features, we always look for things to improve, co-designing it.

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