Conducting a design research project alone was difficult. While ambiguity and complexity were certainly factors in this, I found the most challenging aspect of the project was going through it alone. Without a team, it was difficult to ‘check my back swing’.
And while group work comes with its own set of challenges, it also presents an entirely new set of advantages stemming from the diverse backgrounds and experiences of team members. The group benefits from this particularly in the ‘performing’ stages of team formation. A major factor in team performance, this leaves me curious about the role that diversity plays in projects, teams, and organizations as they evolve, and what that means for design.
One of the most difficult parts of working alone on a project as important as basic user research was the absence of real-time feedback, constructive criticism, and collective inquiry in challenging my own findings. While the pace of individual work can be liberating – ebbing and flowing through work uninterrupted and without the need to slow down to convey meaning – the benefits of having a sounding board and multiple perspectives are lost, and surely felt.
Now, several weeks into a new design project, this time with a group, our team is beginning to perform. Polite reminders and gentle nudges are gradually being traded in for probing inquiry and penetrating questions – and this is great. We are critically thinking not only about our own independent work in between team meetings, but about the quality of research we put forth, the meaning of our findings, and the methodologies by which we will drive forward through the project.
This is a delicate, but important balance. It represents the power of diversity within groups consisting of talented individuals, especially those who are tasked with uncovering new insights and generating unexpected solutions to wicked problems.
In thinking about the relationships between these concepts – diversity, quality of insights, and team dynamics – I found myself thinking about the possible following tensions.