Harnessing the potential of collaboration

It's unlikely that you need reminding that 2016 is time of change, from Brexit to Trump, political shifts have put us in a state of flux & digital disruption is affecting every industry. How can design help?

Design has the most impact when it's focused on a clear objective. Elon musk's singular vision to make electric vehicles desirable. UK Government Digital Services remit to to save money and make services better. Or the Drum's belief that marketing can save the world.

All grand plans that deserve to succeed and all with clear objective set out from the start. In order to be a success you need to set clear goals. So once you have a target in your sights how best to tackle it.?

Over the last few years the ideas of Skunkworks, innovation labs and agile methodologies have emerged and been shared. Organisations have experimented and some great work has come out of it. Skype as a teaching aid and The UK Govt. website winning a major design award. I've been thinking about what projects have in common, what works and why. Sparked by a combination of the Drum's recent subhead "The power of collaboration", reading MadeByMany's new research on innovation labs and remembering this blogpost by Russell Davies.

One of the things that they all have in common is size. Small teams, comprising researchers, designers, software engineers, strategists, beyond job titles, they are people who are empathetic, creative, bold, open, resourceful and willing and keen to learn.

The next thing they need is transparency. Not just the autonomy to make decisions but clear objectives that are understood by other parts of the business. Made by Many call this Open innovation.

We saw the negative impact of lofting an elite group into an ivory tower to build a future that the larger, more traditional part of a business could only feel threatened by.

Finally they need to be a mix of internal and external individuals, this is perhaps where current business relationships need to adapt to coming change. To quote Russell

You just can't do Agile with a traditional client-approval methodology. That's going to be a thing agencies are going to have to deal with.

It's also something highlighted by MadebyMany in their report.

"Designers and technologists need to learn business. Eighty per cent of UK design businesses employ fewer than five people and “just make lovely stuff " rather than changing the world"

I was impressed by the success of projects at Doitday where client and agency work together as a team explained by Richard Coope in this LinkedIn piece. Harnessing the power of collaboration is something that's going to be needed much more in this time of great change. These quotes might be three years old, but Russell Davis's assertions that

Digital is Not Comms, And It's Not IT, It's Your Business


The Unit of Delivery is The Team

have never felt more prescient.

The power of collaboration is considerable, if you consider it correctly.



Steve Lloyd