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How to Encourage Innovative Team Collaborations 


How to Encourage Innovative Team Collaborations 

Mason Adair shares an article on the benefits of moving outside of clearly defined roles. 

When talented design, marketing and product people collaborate, great things can happen. However, especially in newly formed teams, significant overlap in these roles can leave teams mired in the question of ‘who does what’? Left unanswered, this question can lead to tension and in the worst case, undermine the product.

Answering the question for your team should be less about, say, what a generic UX Designer or Product Manager would typically be responsible for, and more about how that specific constellation of those individual people should work together in that team based on their respective skills and motivations.

The sooner people can become comfortable (re)defining their role within the context of their immediate team, the faster they can get to the real work of building great products. Sounds easy, but this requires a healthy and open conversation within the team, and even if your team is open to such a conversation, where do you start?

During my work at McKinsey, I distributed a survey to 3500 respondents targeted at people in different roles in digital product teams. I received responses from people at Apple, Google, startup founders, and everybody in between. Based in part on the results, I was able to generate an inventory of 100 activities that people in product teams tend to engage in. Many of these activities fall in the ‘gray zone’ where the responsibility for fulfilling them per role varies widely between teams.

When I coach new product teams, I use this inventory as a basis for a conversation about which activities are relevant to the team (no team does all 100), followed by a discussion about who in the team is most experienced and/or motivated to take the lead or support each one. Incidentally, the activities are roughly mapped to the four phases of the Design Thinking ‘Double Diamond’ (discover, define, develop, deliver) as team responsibilities tend to be meaningfully influenced by these phases (as outlined in this article). Maybe it’s a good exercise to help your product team get past rigid role definitions and get to work.


Key points include:

  • Questions leading to tension
  • Redefining roles
  • The Design Double Diamond


Read the full article, Great Product Teams Shed Standard Role Definitions, on Linkedin.