Over the past five years or so, design thinking has come into its own in the tech industry. Designers have emerged from their peripheral roles in the product development process and they now work on teams alongside developers.
But just putting everyone in the same room with a common goal doesn’t always translate into great teamwork. In fact, lots of companies have found that getting their cross-functional teams to communicate has been one tough row to hoe.
Here at Making Sense, we’re lucky enough to have found a formula for getting everyone to work together effectively no matter what role they play in the development process. It’s a formula that draws its algorithm from the principles of design thinking and from a company culture that encourages innovation.
Let’s break that down into three basic concepts that need to be in place for designers and developers to pull up to the same table and get things done.
1. Designers and developers need to speak the same language
The language of design is not the same language that developers speak. Business language is yet another whole different animal. For cross-functional teams to be effective, everyone will need to broaden their vocabulary beyond their given discipline and find common terms for communication.
Finding common language shouldn’t be hard once you all share an understanding of and empathy for each other’s roles on the team. Good communication is rooted in a common mindset. Ultimately, the goal for every team member is the same: to deliver the best possible product under the given set of circumstances you all share. By understanding one another’s roles, team members become better equipped to support one another. A common language will emerge from there.
2. Company culture plays a role in how teams collaborate
Good communication is also rooted in a strong company culture. When there’s already a company-wide culture of collaboration and sharing going on, that communal sense of cooperation trickles down into teams. The last thing anyone needs is for team players to act like they’re not team players!
An “us-versus-them” mentality signals not only a breakdown in communications but a failure at the top levels of an organization to promote a collaborative company culture where everybody respects the opinions of others in the development process.
Company culture is a top-down phenomenon, where leadership plays a huge role in setting the scene for how employees manage their communications. When leadership encourages everyone to contribute their unique talents and to respect the contributions of others, individual teams are more likely to behave similarly. Empathy, respect, openness… the bedrock of collaboration.
3. Designer-developer communication affects the bottom line
At a time when companies are finding it harder and harder to stand out from the crowd, it’s more important than ever for leaders to give priority to product design.
A groundbreaking McKinsey study points out just how important design can be to businesses. Design-led companies, on average, see 32% more revenue compared to companies who silo their design talent and who haven’t quite got the hang of early-stage prototyping.
Only after designers and developers manage to find their groove and work out a way to communicate with one another can the stage be set for effective design thinking.
These three concepts boil down to empathy, respect, and big-picture thinking, things that make anyone a better team player, not just designers and developers.