Collaboration

We’re sure that in your design education you’ve heard the word ‘collaborate’ used no less than a thousand times. We also know that you probably have a reasonably good idea of what it means to collaborate. Today in The Lounge we won’t give a generic definition of the word, but rather explain how collaboration is used and how to do it in the smoothest way possible. Keep in mind, when we use the term collaborate/collaboration we don’t mean the group work you did in high school which mostly consisted of one person taking complete control of a project. No, when we speak of collaboration, we mean equitably working with others to reach a common goal. This can happen at any time during the design process and knowing how to do so effectively can benefit you greatly both as a student and professional.

Why Collaboration Matters

Before I get into all the different ways you might effectively collaborate, I think it is important to talk about why we collaborate. The main reason, in my personal experience, is because it is more efficient (when done correctly). When you are working with others it no longer falls on you to be an expert on all parts of a project. Team members can contribute their best work in one or two areas rather than work that is just okay throughout the project. Collaboration also minimizes the overall possibility of mistakes, it is easier to catch issues when there are multiple eyes looking at if from different angles. The same principle can be applied to the creative collaboration brings to a project. When working closely on a project with others, ideas can be built upon and evolved in a much quicker and organic matter than if you were to work alone.

Collaborating Effectively

The most important thing to do when collaborating with others is to first, check your ego at the door. Having confidence in your ideas and wanting to bring them to the table is wonderful and should also be encouraged. That being said, talking over others and acting as if your ideas are the only good ones is not only rude but its also damaging for the group as a whole. Collaboration is all about communication and delegation. Know when to speak up and when to listen. If everyone is shouting over one another then no one gets heard. 

Communication is vital in any situation, but the more people involved in a single endeavor, the more important it becomes. How effectively you communicate does not only affect your presentation but also how smoothly the team works together. Being able to tell you teammates your idea in an understandable way and actively listening when they do the same will lead to more positive work experience.

Communication and Collaboration

You’re students, all of you probably have a rather large workload and may not be able to meet up regularly, and that’s okay. You don’t have to meet in person to keep up with your team. There is enough technology available that you can be in communication with your entire team at any given point in time. You can create a group message or a Facebook page. If you need to have a meeting, but not everyone can make it there physically for one reason or another, use Skype, FaceTime, or even Snapchat’s new video calling feature. There are thousands of different ways to stay in contact with your team. Which means that if you want to make changes to the project, think that you are missing something or have any other work or team related questions, you can let your team know pretty easily, all things considered.

Delegating tasks appropriately is incredibly important when working in a group, regardless of size. Roles within a team should not be chosen by popularity, or desire but by who would be the best person to fill that role. Does your best friend want to be a team leader or project manager but is disorganized and/or busy all the time and therefore will probably miss most of the team meetings? You probably should not give them that much responsibility. 

Sometimes roles are voted on by the group before you start working and other times you will naturally settle into them without much thought. Regardless of how one gets the role, it is essential that everyone not only has one but fulfills it as well. If someone is not doing their part, it will affect the entire group; you end up having subpar elements to your project, or everyone else ends up picking up the slack. Either way, it is incredibly frustrating and unfair to those who are doing their part. A problem like this should be taken care of as soon as possible in order to avoid any negative consequences with the final product… which brings us to our final point: conflict resolution.

Conflict Resolution

When dealing with conflict, it is vital that you address any issues before they become more significant. First, try to resolve the issue within the group. Speak respectfully and frankly about the problems so that everyone involved is fully aware of why in the first place there is an issue. Passive aggressive behavior will only lead to miscommunication and more problems in the future. If an issue is bothering you, it benefits no one to keep bottled up. Also, it is counterintuitive to deal with matters aggressively. Do not attack others or their ideas, speak calmly and give sound reasoning for your feelings about a subject. If you do not believe that an issue can be resolved internally, getting a third party is the next step. Whether it is a professor or simply someone that everyone respects, finding a neutral party to act as a mediator can make it much more comfortable.

About the Author
Taylor Coleman is a Denver native and recent graduate from the interior design program at Washington State University. When not thinking about design, Taylor is an avid reader and photographer, and as a new intern in The Lounge, she is excited to see another side of the design world!

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