Fredricks Design has built a business on the ability to collaborate around solving product development challenges. We regularly do this using internal brainstorm sessions and structured workshops involving participants from clients’ teams and manufacturing resources. We’ve recognized the benefit of putting key people together and the resulting synergy. The value of these “formal” gatherings is clearly documented with stacks of concept sketches and lists of opportunities to explore further.
But sometimes collaboration occurs more organically, is unscheduled and unstructured and is initiated around a very specific task or problem. Often this spontaneous collaboration occurs when someone is trying to work outside of their skillset or in unfamiliar territory. Sometimes an idea just won’t “click,” but they feel the drive to push-on until a solution is achieved.
A more efficient and time-responsible approach may be to recognize the roadblock for what it is, and involve another team member whose skills or experience may be better suited to the problem at hand. This hard-to-quantify activity may actually be the most valuable and efficient type of collaboration, and may also be the most challenging.
Asking for input, help, or guidance with a project can be particularly difficult given that the ability to take ownership and responsibility are a couple of the desirable characteristics we look for in great designers and engineers. Collaborative team members need to be comfortable relying on one another for input and support, as well as being willing to provide it when asked. No one wants to be the “weak link” who needs constant handholding, but realistically understanding one’s personal strengths and limitations and the strengths and limitations of others can be a great asset. It takes practice to remove ego from the process and focus on the singular goal of efficiently and responsibly creating a beautiful end product for a client.
As an industrial designer, I’ve learned to recognize signs that I’m reaching the edges of my “engineering” comfort zone, and it’s time for some spontaneous collaboration. Our engineers have similar experiences coming from the other direction. Fortunately, having such a widely diverse group within our walls gives us easy (and quick) access to other skill sets and experience. Ultimately this behind-the-scenes collaboration guides the design in the right direction, and our clients benefit from a holistically successful result.