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Expanding your vision with multidisciplinary teams

Septemper 2021

Better questions, wider vision, and more impactful results. To build comprehensive solutions to complex problems, you must find new perspectives on how to face the issues waiting to be solved. Multidisciplinary teams tackle this by combining different practices and providing a more holistic approach to problem-solving.

Great questions lead to great designs. Ok, that’s a relatively simple rule. Just ask the right questions from the right people during the project start and start creating your marvelous product design with your product team. The only problem is that asking these substantial questions is especially tricky.

Designers like me often try to tackle this obstacle with different tools like the 5 whys and questioning techniques like Inversion. These are all good methods, and usually, they lead to decent outcomes. But there is one thing that I find to be the most effective. That’s a multidisciplinary design team.

Power of the multidisciplinary team

I feel privileged, having had a chance to work with several multidisciplinary teams. Teams of people with various skills, experiences, and backgrounds. And a genuinely multidisciplinary team isn’t just a group of individuals with different skill sets – these people are a lineup of experts working together toward a mutually shared vision. They see themselves as equals and feel free to put their views out for everyone working on the same project.

Multidisciplinary teams build a better culture for creative thinking. Through diversity, every team member is working in an environment that motivates them and enables them to learn new skills and methods. In the end, all these integrated skills offer tools for solving the complex problem at hand.

The multidisciplinary approach gives the team a wider vision for the project and its domain. Turning your view from narrow to rounded cannot be overrated. It’s the key to finding those truly valuable questions you need for your design.

You will never know what you don’t know

How often have you been in a situation where you hear a question and think to yourself, “that is something I would have never thought to ask”? Even if you’re a rock star designer or a mythical full-stack unicorn, you are clueless about what you don’t know.

When we are reaching for innovative solutions, the answer usually lies in this blind spot or unknown universe. Our backgrounds, experiences, and disciplines define how vast this universe is and what parts of it are already mapped out. There’s no point in trying to approach this universe alone. You need diverse ways of looking at challenging issues to find the things you need to know.

How it works

Combining different expertise is based on shared principles and trust. How to work together and how to value every co-worker?

People know what kind of experts are on their team. What are their responsibilities, when they are at the strongest, and when they might feel uncomfortable. Everyone is free or even obligated to bring their views and expertise into the project. For this to happen, the team needs to share a common language. Jargon kills communication and might, unintentionally, even bar people from decision-making.

When everything is working smoothly, spontaneous iteration and cultivation of ideas become a natural way of product development. A developer can guide UI designers to more efficient technical solutions. A user researcher might notice that there’s a blind spot in the customer journey. And, when necessary, anyone can point out at any moment that the team has lost focus of their shared goal.

Multidisciplinary teams in my current work environment

For me, thinking about the benefits of multidisciplinary teams feels a bit funny. The main reason for this is that these advantages come almost as a default to me. I work in a flat organization with an inclusive working culture. My colleagues are developers, data-analytics, researchers, art directors, service designers, storytellers, etc. Our clients and their team members are strongly involved in our projects. This environment motivates me and helps me do better design. And to get a strong start for my design, I’m in a rather good place to find the great questions that are usually really hard to find.