Collaboration : Sink or Swim

Here’s a little rant:

Why do teams with strong, smart, driven, enthusiastic people fail? How do we prevent collaborations from failing? So I asked around and here are some of the answers I received and some of the answers I thought of myself:


Ego was my most popular answer. Below are some of the quotes I thought were best.

“Same reasons marriages fail : Ego- not a willingness to admit wrong- subversion because of ego- sometimes it’s just the wrong chemistry. Or a conflict of values” -Ben Bush (Professor @ SCAD)

“Collaboration is difficult, especially with building consensus. Talented people tend to have egos, and true team leaders know how to lead without always having to be the lead.” -Arlen Stawasz (Architect @ Perkins and Will)

“God syndrome : if everyone is a superstar they dont feel they need to contribute as much” -Phil Caridi (Industrial Designer @ pc/d)
“Another phenomenon that’s also somewhat down to egos, but not entirely: the more accomplished someone is in their field, the more convinced they often are of their way of doing things. At that point it isn’t just about ego, since they might genuinely believe that their methods give the team the best chance to succeed. Their less accomplished teammates might then feel the pressure to comply, being unable to do their best in the process. Or if the more accomplished ones comply, they might not believe in the new methods enough to fully commit.” -Ali Murtaza (Senior Lecturer @ School Visual Art & Design )

Time Management

“Team members aren’t able to focus because they have too many other projects going on/ too many ideas, or no one is comfortable delegating, and forcing others to stick to a schedule/ task. Or on the flip side they’re too focused too see the bigger picture. “ -Jenn D’Eugenio (Independent Talent and Design Consultant)


This is where I think collaborations fail. Team members need to be communicating at all times. I remember growing up playing soccer my coach always told us, you all could be the best players in the world, the teams that win the world cup are constantly talking to each other, the teams that lose barely speak to each other. How is your team member supposed to know where you are struggling, when you’re behind, or when something is complete if you don’t tell them? Unfortunately mind reading is not fully developed yet. Hopefully soon though.

“A lack of clear and consistent communication. Make sure everyone is on the same page, that everyone understands what goes into the final product, and be able to communicate when something goes wrong so that it can be fixed immediately” — James Taylor ( Product Designer @ Rising Barn)


If your teammate cannot trust you or you cannot trust your teammate, everyone is going to be on edge. People leave all the time for a week, a weekend, a day, an hour, whatever the time is, if your teammate cannot trust you to do the work you said you would do, the moral of the team goes down. If your teammate does trust you and you let them down things are only going to cause problems. Respect people’s trust. Earn the trust you deserve.

“Confidence and trust. Do you have confidence in the passion and abilities of the team. Do you trust they are in it just as much as you. Do have trust that other will take ownership of the overall good of the team and project as well. Will the have the confidence to allow others to make decisions. And to sum it up in one word: maturity.” — Owen Foster (Director @ Aether)


Be honest with your skills. If you say you’re good at renderings, you should be able to do renders, if you say you can 3D model, you should be able to 3D model. Be honest with your strengths and weaknesses and things will go smoother.

Also, just be honest, if you did not do the work, stop making up stories. Nothing is worse than liars. If you are busy tell your group, if you are in a bad mood and just do not feel like meeting, be honest. If people would stop lying to make others feel better people would not have to tip toe around their friends.

Be honest with your team if someone is slacking. If you never tell someone they are letting you down or dropping the ball, you cannot blame it all on that said person, if you never confronted them. You now share the responsibility. Just be honest when people are doing well or poorly.


You are not going to get along with everyone. And everyone has that one person they rant to. But do not make that one person a group of people because nothing is worse than gossip. It looks bad on you and whoever is behind the gossip. Just be professional.


If you do not know what is required or what your goals are, the team is quickly to fall apart.

“Often times it’s about wrong priorities and therefore related to project management more than group dynamics.” — Xenia Viladas (Professor @ SCAD)

Originally published at