“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

It’s not about building a team … It’s about skills supported by culture

Today I posted the below on a LinkedIn discussion thread about what makes a great interactive team. Here is my response slightly edited.

I’ll take a diff approach. You don’t need an “interactive” team at all. What you need first above all else is an organization in all areas from the exec to HR & purchasing that has a culture of humanity & an equal appreciation of both design & technology towards the goal of organizational success.

What do I mean by this?
A. I no longer believe that a successful model is that ONE role is responsible to be the advocate for the people of a system.
B. Design, characterized by both process & empathy, cannot reside among only one group in an organization for design to succeed.
C. Designers need to be as technical & business savvy as the rest of the organization.

So for me it is less important what roles or people you have with your organization, than it is to have a collection of skills, a fluid & flat organizational structure without silos (project-based with thought ledership areas as “dotted lines”), and a top-down appreciation for both humanity & bottom-up idea generation.

What are those skills? Beyond the usual engineering & business management skills which are outside the preview of this conversation you need the following:

1. Observation – this is a true u serrated skill that way too many ppl think they know how to do but can’t.

2. Research methods – experience in research organization, data collection, data organization.

3. Data analysis – the ability to organize data from primary & secondary sources, but it also requires visual communication skills so that data can be visualized in abstract methods that allow for analysis to occur & team alignment of that analysis.

4. Synthesis – taking data towards the gaol of creating a framework for design principles. I have found that storytelling does this best, but there are other methods.

5. Idea generatation – design is most powerful when as Bill Buxton discusses in Sketching UX, a plentitude of ideas are generated. This is not a usual skill for too many in the UX community.

6. Ability to externalize ideas verbally & visually (usually both at the same time). This means visual design & also programming capabilities

7. Criticism – the ability to frame refinement of ideas & evaluations beyond “the user” based both on previously discussed principles & grounded sources. These sources come from a host places and include social sciences, business, technology, art & design.

8. Model/prototype – through various levels of fidelity & resolution of both visual & interactive components of the design. Again, programming will be required, as will a full compliment of visual design skills that should range from novice to full production ready

9. Evaluation – both with users & other stakeholders testing & other eval methods.

10. Management & leadership – the ability to structure teams & to get teams to the best solution

I’m sure I’m missing something, so add if you like.

Thought of an addition that is hard to synchronize with the above:
Writing & semiotics

How many people & what titles they have is so less important than making sure you cover your organizationwiththe proper culture & your project teams with the right skills.

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