Friday, March 11, 2011

Second Thought on Collaboration

Thinking about yesterday's schematic design meeting, I ought to repeat how rare collaboration is.  You always want it - you so seldom get it.  Why?

Nothing is more fun than kicking ideas around with someone!  But not only do the stars have to align... everything else does to.  I've noticed that there do seem to be some minimum requirements to make a design session work:

1)  Compatible people - and not too many of them:  The best collaborative design sessions seem to involve 2-4 people: more than that is a committee.  ALL these folks must (for this session) be relaxed, low-ego, bright, trusting, feeling a bit playful, and aimed at the same goal: a good design.  (See how easily this can go off-track?)  Add in natural personal sympathies and antipathies that affect the flow.  It's not that everyone has to be friends - often those fondest can't design together - it's more whether mind-to-mind you "get" what the other is saying.  Perhaps that's why relative strangers can find this easier... they can just handle ideas, in an playing-a-game way, without reading under-layers of feeling?  People.  Complicated.
2)  Management: The meeting has to be playtime: rough-n-tumble, giddy maybe, bouncy with ideas... yet everyone has their say and a respectful listening.  In the end, Mom or Dad decides what to do.
3)  Preparation: Can't do much till everyone has read the script and seen the space.  Have a floor plan and research materials.  And sketching stuff.
4)  Time: Idea-kicking doesn't need to take long - sometimes ten minutes is enough - but it can't feel rushed.
5)  A Supportive Atmosphere: Best is a quiet, comfortable room with a nice big, smooth table and food and drink - but just some of all that will work.  If folks are focused enough, noise can be okay or even help, as long as you can hear each other easily.  If ideas are exciting enough, you can ditch most of the comfort.  But you gotta have the table!  A clipboard might work, but I bet the ideas would be as cramped as the sketches.  A tile-topped table is just a tease - puleeeese!

I'd love comments on this one.

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