GV Library Design

A tip for effective meetings: Always be capturing

At HubSpot, we recently did a product design sprint with the Google Ventures Design Studio. It was a great experience, not only to work alongside a team of highly accomplished designers, but to observe their design process and how they proceed through a project.

Our design team learned a lot from Google Ventures. We learned about designing quickly. We learned about keeping laser focus on the goals of a project. We learned about keeping the scope as small as possible (but no smaller). But one of the most powerful things we learned was a simple lesson that applies to way more than design: Always be capturing.

“Always be capturing” is about the habit of continuously recording the value from your conversation. For example: If you’re talking about a new concept, you should be sketching it as you talk so your team has a shared understanding and an artifact of the conversation.

How to capture

Whiteboards

Fill your workspace with whiteboards so you can easily take shared notes. Fixed whiteboards (attached to the wall) are OK but movable whiteboards (on wheels) are better.

Post-it Notes

Write down individual ideas, questions, or UI elements on Post-its. Then you can easily post, cluster, and organize your notes later.

Smartphones

As you work, take photos of notes and drawings with your smartphone. The camera on your iPhone or Android is good enough to capture high-quality images of your work. You can email, print, upload, or manipulate these later.

Dropbox

At the end of the meeting, upload the photos from your smartphone directly to a shared Dropbox folder. It’s fast and easy, and gives everyone on your team immediate access to the output of the meeting.

Some principles to keep in mind

Don’t repeat yourself

When you capture every important idea or concept, you’ll find it easier to avoid repetitive discussions. During the sprint, if we started down a path that seemed familiar, we would look around the room at everything we’d captured to see if we were repeating ourselves. If so, we could say, “You know what, we already captured that,” and move on.

If you can’t capture it, stop talking

If you find yourself unable to capture your conversation, it may not be that valuable. Seriously. During the sprint, Jake (who was facilitating) would often say: “OK, you have been talking for a few minutes now without capturing anything. I want to help you do that.” Either the people talking would start capturing, or they’d stop talking because they realized they weren’t really pushing anything forward. This was a really valuable lesson!

Write down or sketch everything important

This is easier than it sounds. For example:

  • If you’re comparing two things, just make a two-column table and write out the differences.
  • If you’re talking about a bunch of features, write them down on Post-its and sort them on the wall.
  • If you’re brainstorming a concept, sketch it out. This immediately shows you whether everyone is thinking of the same thing. You might find that other people jump in to help complete the sketch.

Appoint a facilitator

Jake Knapp facilitated our design sprint. In this role he served as an objective manager of the discussion. He made sure that everything got captured and that everyone stayed on point.


By the end of the sprint we generated an enormous collection of shared artifacts that we could all access, and that we had all seen before. Reviewing that collection afterward shows us how much work we actually did — and it’s an invaluable foundation for future design work that the sprint kick-started.

Now we’re putting the practice of “always be capturing” to work at HubSpot, and our design sessions have gotten twice as efficient. We quickly move from project to project secure with the knowledge that everything we’ve discussed has been captured somewhere. Just knowing that we have a record of all the design work we’ve done makes us more confident, effective designers. And best of all, we’ve shared this technique outside the design team — it easily applies to all meetings, not just design-related ones!