What does effective collaboration look like in an interdisciplinary team?
I agree with the perspective of Rekonen et al. (2017), practices that support an atmosphere of open communication and trust must be established early on. For example, In the DFM connection project, our team design fields include communication design (myself), industrial design, and interior design. I appreciate that all of my team members respect each other’s professionalism. Moreover, this atmosphere continues until the end of the project. As a communication designer, I am glad my team member trusted me to let me do the white paper and UI design.
However, sometimes I wonder if I took the learning new aspects chances from them. For example, one situation is when we decided who was in charge of the solution video. Because I was already in charge of the white paper design and part of the UI prototype, the interior designer decided to be in charge of this role. However, because he had no video editing experience, the video's structure could be clearer and with subtitles. Although we want to distribute our duty equally, we should not entirely separate the parts to different people. If this time, we can discuss the structure in more detailedly. The result would be more systematic. Of course, if there are warm-up or small-scale prototypes for testing. I believe It would not be a problem.
I always have a myth that interdisciplinary teams should “learn” new skills from each other. However, the result or outcome in the final stage should not be an experiment for testing new skills. Instead, if there have a professional person, he would be the best option.
A similar situation happened in the CBI-A3 project because we had two communication designers in a team. In the earlier stage, separating the graphic design parts between us was challenging.
Fortunately, we found suitable roles after several missions. The class also allowed us to reallocate and discover the leaders of different missions. For example, I am our team's graphic design leader and assistant researcher. Other team members may be the mission managers or industrial design/prototype leaders. In this way, we contribute to our profession in different stages, allowing effective collaboration. For example, In my opinion, our white paper is more complete than the DFM connection project because of precise distribution.
Without a doubt, in those two projects, the fantastic time in an interdisciplinary team for me is the idea session/brainstorming. I agree with brainstorming individually and shortly before group sharing/brainstorming. In this way, we can generate our basic ideas and build on them to generate more creative thoughts in group sharing. For example, in CBI-A3, we combined multiple ideas into one for solving women's delayed diagnosis. However, in the CBI-A3: Terraforming, there were no team toolkits or idea-generated tools that we could follow. Therefore, we took much work to discuss, but the result could have been more satisfying. Based on it, I believe effective collaboration in an interdisciplinary team highly depends on the system toolkits and separating time for multiple sessions.
There are three points from my practical collaboration experience in an interdisciplinary team I should consider in the future. First, consider the environment on the team to be positive, uplifting, and encouraging. (Rekonen et al., 2017, p. 101). Team members should respect all backgrounds and professional fields from each other. Let everybody do their best in their area without judgement.
Second, become aware of the team's variety of capabilities and be sure to use them. Make my expertise, experience, and talents clear from the beginning of the projects. (Rekonen et al., 2017, p. 101).
Although everybody is the same, we want to contribute equally to an interdisciplinary team; the team should delegate the leaders of different parts of the missions early to avoid ambiguous distribution.
Finally, there should be toolkits to support interdisciplinary team discussions. Otherwise, the idea session would be unbalanced between team members, with only a few people speaking loud.
How you have made decisions in your team. Are you achieving clear communication?
According to Jimmy (2021), there are fourteen ways to support deciding during teamwork. We use most of them as our decision-making approaches. We primarily use consensus, consent and systemic consensing during small decisions—for example, some warm-up or dynamic team challenges, which are limited with intensive time. They are valuable and quick to make decisions. However, the results may not be the best options when we look back.
On the other hand, we shift the ways to algorithms while making significant decisions. For instance, in the CBI-A3, after returning from Cern, we decided on our topic for the next section. At the same time, we still had at least three opportunity cards that had potential. Therefore, we used a weighted decision matrix as the tool, and the process was extremely smooth. Because when all the factors were concerned, the result was obvious.
Relatively, I am concerned that the discussion is too fast and missing self-willingness. The answer is too powerful in the matrix, so speaking opposing views is challenging. Moreover, we did not include our motivation score in this matrix. Therefore, the result is for achieving a successful project. Without self-motivation, the project may be successful but lose passion.
Similarly, prioritisation matrices are considered valuable and efficient in UX Decision Making (NNgroup, 2018). From my point of view, I highly recommend the radical and satisfied axis matrices while quickly idea generation section. However, as above mention, the team should know when to use which method; otherwise, the crucial decision would be missing.
Another thing I want to mention is “who” locates the post-it notes on axis mapping. This is another decision time. From Jimmy (2021) and my experience, without a plan at this time, the process would be domain by power, Systemic Consensing and Consent because we will prototype it in a short time; however, if we can try “one each”, “algorithm”, “random” even competition when we locate the post-it notes. More possibilities would happen.
I do not think I achieve clear communication in those projects. One reason is the barrier of language. I am still afraid to make mistakes, even the chatting. Therefore, sometimes I could not stand for my point or my ideas. It is frustrating and makes me lose my confidence.
Fortunately, all of my team members are inclusive and know my situation. However, sometimes I know something wrong (from my point of view), but I choose not to say it because I am afraid my ambiguous thought will make conflicts. According to Rekonen et al. (2017), the challenges of an interdisciplinary team include ambiguous situations and always needing team members to be brave. Moreover, I should be more confident in showing professionalism and asking questions.
On the other hand, as I get along with my team member longer, this situation will happen less. Not everybody is an extrovert person. Therefore, more practising, more time to get used to new people and more small missions during classes can help me through this. One thing I found is that I may need to improve at communicating through speaking, but I still can write or type to explain my idea, and they are helpful. For example, our team use Facebook messenger as our communication channel. So I will type what I wanted to clarify but was unclear in class.
Discuss desirable practices and tools that support interdisciplinary collaboration.
I agree that “I like, I wish, I wonder” as an approach is helpful for feedback between teamwork (Rekonen et al., 2017). I hope this way could bring a more positive atmosphere to our team. Moreover, I highly recommend regularly doing it to reduce conflict. For example, during the team dynamic time at Cern, my feedback gave me more passion and confidence in this project. This way, we can build an inclusive and encouraging team working atmosphere.
According to Rekonen et al. (2017) and the circumstance I mentioned in the first question. Ensuring all team members know the skills, knowledge domain, profession, and even cultural background of each other is the priority mission for me. Therefore, the role (leader) cards are helpful in the first and middle stages. Hill et al. (2014) mention that leaders can combine each individual's talents into ideas that represent collective creativity.
Another example from CBI-A3 is that we chose a persona and used it to explain the complicated deep technology to each other. In my opinion, sometimes we can also practice using the easiest way to describe our idea to each other. In this way, we can also make sure the idea makes sense and all team members understand it entirely.
Moreover, as mentioned before, prioritisation and weighted decision matrices are exceptionally efficient for interdisciplinary collaboration. However, there are several thing people should consider before using them.
What factors contribute to good performance in interdisciplinary teams?
Psychological safety is the primary factor that should be fulfilled for efficient performance in interdisciplinary teams for me. In this way, everyone on the team will feel comfortable taking risks since they know they will not be caused to feel terrible (Burnison, 2019).
Furthermore, Rekonen et al. (2017) mention being positive to everyone’s thoughts, giving feedback and ensuring the atmosphere is positive and encouraging. Because all people from different backgrounds, they must have divergent thoughts sometimes. Great communication is the key, but How to make team members communicate. Psychological safety is the key to encouraging people to do it.
Additionally, schedule management is crucial for good performance in interdisciplinary teams for me. Typically, because interdisciplinary team members have extreme characteristics, it is challenging to control the schedule. Fortunately, all of our team members are responsible. Therefore, our schedules are flexible and helpful. For example, before the Christmas holiday, all of us were busy, but we continued each part we should do and delegated roles to the more accessible people.
Moreover, all of my team members agreed the final presentation at Cern was outstanding because of the clear delegation of our roles. First, we separated into two groups for the different topics to research. After that, two persons collected helpful information and images for the two topic slides. Another team member focused on explaining deep technology. The other received all information to design the slides. Everybody knows what they should do and what they do are meant for this project and the future (Burnison, 2019)
However, when we returned to Australia to do the final presentation of phase 1, there were some changes because of some factors. At Cern, it created a space and a period for the whole team to spend the whole day on this project. On the other hand, in-person meeting outside the class is extremely challenging because commuting is time-consuming, but online meeting cause less responsible because it seems whenever can be held. Moreover, behind the camera is difficult to know other’s processes.
On the contrary, in a physical meeting, people can build a more trustful relationship and generate more ideas than in virtual meetings (5 Reasons Why Face-to-Face Meetings Are Still Important, 2020). Based on the point of view of Brett (2022), compared to in-person meetings, virtual meetings are more like work orientation. However, the concept is the opposite of “make it more than work” (Rekonen et al., 2017, p. 101). Therefore, the team may lose their passion after many online meeting sessions; for example, there is some feedback about “be more enthusiastic and motivated at presentation” for the phase one presentation.
Both my team members and I noticed this kind of situation. Therefore, in the future, we plan to use google calendar to know our free time of each other, and it can help us decide whether to hold the in-person meeting because participants can interact more freely during in-person meetings (Brett (2022). And as interdisciplinary teams, spending more time getting used to each other is encouraged and helpful. In this way, we can acquire more background information from different people and get everyone suitable roles (Rekonen et al., 2017, p. 101). For example, we shared our portfolios during the casual time, and I am glad my team approved my graphic design ability and trusted me to design slides and white paper.
In summary, three factors contribute to good performance in interdisciplinary teams. First, is psychological safety based on feedback, trust and physical interaction. Second, flexible schedule management to deal with the busy period. And the final one is to let physical meetings and interactive as the primary option.
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Burnison, G. (2019, February 28). 7 years ago, Google set out to find what makes the “perfect” team — and what they found shocked other researchers. CNBC; CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/28/what-google-learned-in-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.htmlHill, L. A., Brandeau, G., Truelove, E., & Lineback, K. (2014, June). Collective Genius. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2014/06/collective-genius
Jimmy. (2021, September 21). 14 Ways for a Group to Reach a Decision - Agile with Jimmy. Www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q7H5jtYUo4
NNgroup. (2018, November 3). Prioritization Matrices in UX Decision Making. Www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZneQHo9Xddk
Rekonen, S. (2017). Unlocking the potential of interdisciplinary teams. In T. A. Björklund, M. Laakso, S. Kirjavainen, & K. Ekman (Eds.), Passion-based co-creation (pp. 90-101). Aalto University. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-60-3741-7
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