Design Team Dynamics

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Week 1: Reading

My experience with design teams is fairly limited. Before Olin, Odyssey of the Mind was my only real experience with integrated team activity; our designs were only fortuitously successful. Team activity was mentioned in high school but not given any real emphasis -- we quickly broke team problems into division-of-labor scenarios that we worked on independently because teamwork was perceived as difficult and of lower quality. Design Nature at Olin revolutionized the way I see design activity and design teams.

Snodgrass outlines two sets of design metaphors: the rationalist model of design and the romantic model of design.
The point that there's no one formal design process to supercede all others in all cases is an important point. I'm not sure how I feel about discounting intuition.
Snodgrass quotes Heath: "Heath believes successful designers have a method, 'but it is not yet an explicit method.'" Will it ever be quantified? Is it even possible to quantify? It sounds like Snodgrass is suggesting no; I feel like I have to agree to some degree. Is that why we started this IS? I don't think that's an answer we're likely to get.
What's the Olin curricular design model look like? Are we in the analysis-synthesis-evaluation mode? Design Nature definitely does, particularly for the instructor-directed hopper project. Elsewhere?
It would be interesting to see what the post-realistic world looks like.

Team of one: So are teams really useful? Is the wider perspective attained from using teams the best way to do things? / an efficient use of person-hours? Why does everyone use the team model if teams aren't really the best answer? Is it really just an effective model for peer review? I get the feeling that wider perspectives are useful, but it seems like these perspectives are just as likely to be wrong as right. What's the balance? I'd like to ask people in industry about this.

Belbin evaluation
I was interested to find that my Team-Worker score on the Belbin inventory was zero. That doesn't square with how I view myself operating within a team and I'm wondering why I interpreted my the statements in the inventory as outside my experience. Is my limited experience biasing my response away from my "real" orientation, am I not really acting in a manner consistent with how I vew myself? I'll have to think about this when my next team project swings around.


Blogger Mel said...

"So are teams really useful?"

Yes, and it's not just for the wider perspective or the shared work. I should find and post something on the team/working group difference, because it clarifies a lot of what I'll be babbling about here.

Working groups aren't necessarily more effective than teams, since they mostly provide you with peer review and other folks to divide the work among (access to more person-hours and a wider skill set).

Teams, on the other hand, are masters of synthesis. The work isn't just divided into person-hours and portioned out; it's actually shared and collaborative, and you get the richness of having contributions from different perspectives (as opposed to just peer review from different perspectives).

Initially, building a team is an "inefficient" use of person-hours in that you spend a lot of time fighting, figuring out your dynamics, and not getting work done. But it gains back in the end, because once a team is a team, then their productivity just takes off.

If you've ever heard of the "flow" state, which is the "I started working and the next time I looked at the clock 5 hours had passed because I'm just so into this" feeling, teams are really good at getting their members into flow state together. That, alone, makes it wholly worth it for me.

10:02 AM  

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