Teamwork part 1

Teamwork: great collaborations feel like a team effort. Teams can be designed in many different ways and are based on the task that lies ahead. I have become fascinated by how teams are used/designed in highly specialized circumstances like the Operation Room, the Formula 1 pitstop or a master chef’s kitchen. There are several aspects of the art of creating a great team. It is about training people to trust the job of the other person is performed well. Teamwork is also about dancing together at prime time, knowing what to do when. But there is more; people need to be placed in the right spot that will allow the team to perform at its best.

A chef makes sure she’s seen by the team, some chefs are the best cook in the kitchen others are perfect at delegating tasks. With high interest in the dynamics of Michelin star performing kitchens, I have been watching Netflix’ ‘Chef’s Table’. Great lessons can be learned from the dynamics displayed in the documentaries. Depending on the chef it is decided what part of the dish apprentices are cooking or who decides on what dish works or not. The role of the chef reflects the dynamic of a team. The more empowering chefs make sure everyone feels part of the team, even the waiters! Others keep a very clear role distinction. In that instance, the trust that they can do that role best is 100% in their hands.

The same counts for F1. What happens in the pit is a high-class sports performance of 2 seconds.  Trust and focus are what makes these 2 seconds successful. They know so well what needs doing because they have practiced the exact movements over and over again. The question is what happens when you work in an ever-changing environment and one cannot ask for this advanced preparation?

As a service designer, I look closely at how a team performs when delivering services. These teams often stretch beyond the one department one is performing in. As most actions, most clients meet different part of an organization. Why does it seem that we look entirely differently at creating teams in an office compared to sports or arts? And if these teams trust each other based on the idea that only together they can reach the stars, they have a shared purpose, why do we not focus on the sense of purpose for team building? I am asking myself this when I read about the scandals of (ir)responsibility in team building in places like the army, governments, sunny papers around corrupted money and leaders and failing institutions due to the lack of commitment of staff.

What if we would all be acting like the star chefs and think of our work as the creation of the perfect combination of textures, flavors, and visual appearance? Re-imagine our world if, like many chefs, we would truly appreciate the area we are cooking in and try to share the appreciation through food, our products. Can we take the responsibility for the surroundings around the businesses that we operate in? Could we, in an office, recreate the magic of the 2-second pitstop?

I aspire to find ways of doing so in the near future. As a service designer, I hope to contribute to the brilliant dynamic dance of organizations that have to learn how to act flexibly in hard conditions whilst there is no time to lose.



What Design Can Do 2015, Steve Rura came on stage, creative director at Googles creative suite. Not alone did he show examples of the work he worked on. Also he explain how they work in multi disciplinary teams to get the most efficient outcome. On top of that, google uses a strong human centered design approach. They really go out into their users live life’s to understand their needs. Not just in New York City but also in Cape Town.


The teamwork that Steve pointed at is a topic that google gets rewarded for often. Julia Rozovsky was asked to find out what the perfect team looked like in Google and Charles Duhigg wrote about this in the New York Times. Rozovsky discovered it had nothing to do with which team members were in a team, how divers or similar they are or how many different cultures are in a team. It had everything to do with how the team members collaborated. A short chat at the beginning, everyone is being heard and roles are set and kept. How friendly or professional they treated each other did not matter as long as they had a feeling of social sensitivity. Which basically means that they picked up on sadness, happiness etc. 

In the Ted talk ‘Everyday compassion at Google’ Chade-Meng Tan explains that the nice work ambiance has everything to do with the celebration of compassion at the workspace. They have special compassion workshops because it is good for business. 

This reminds me of the class we got from Fiona Dawn who talked about the need for being seen and have had the opportunity to speak in the workspace.