Design is a Team Sport

5 Tips to Help You Collaborate


Throughout my BDW experience I have learned the importance of collaboration. It is particularly important, if you are like me and most often work alone. When people who seldom work in a team environment do so, they may find it hard to let go of their ideas and learn to build ideas as a group. The following are the top 5 things I have learned to help me be more collaborative.

1. Know your Role

Me reaping the benefits of knowing my role

I learned the importance of this while playing football for the University of Colorado (2001–2006). These 5 years spent as an undersized walk-on gave me a deep understanding of my purpose on a team full of incredible athletes. I was a 5 year scout team guy. A scout team all-star if you will. Alanna Rizzo and the student news channel labeled me CU’s “Rudy.” I mostly saw the field on special teams and mop up duty. I knew that if I didn’t bust my ass to make sure I helped prepare our first team for opponents week in and week out, I would be selling myself and my teammates short. This same concept applies when collaborating in design work. If you don’t understand and enact your role you will be doing yourself and your team a dis-favor.

2. Shut up and Listen

This guy is done talking

Interrupters are the worst. Even if they have a valid point, interrupters should wait until other people are done talking. On the flip side, people who ramble are also hap hazard to idea flow. Say your idea as clear and concise as possible, then shut the fuck up and LISTEN. While someone explains an idea to me I look at them straight in the eye and picture in my head what they are saying. I interpret and create a mental vision while doing the best I can to understand. If I get it, I like to move the idea forward; “awesome, why is this important?” or “does this align with the company’s core values and beliefs?” When something seems off or I don’t understand. I ask open ended questions that don’t fence in answers.

3. Leave Your Ego at the Door

My cousin Stefano talking with his hands in Montemaggiore Sicily

I am an emotional guy. I come from Sicilian decent, so I talk with my hands and I’ll be the first to admit I have a temper and an ego. I have learned that arrogance and ego’s kill collaboration. No one cares how good you think your ideas are. Defending ideas with solid reasoning and thought process is most important. It sucks when your ideas get shut down and it is difficult for us Italians to let go of our emotions. Thanks to BDW I have learned the importance of keeping emotions in check. Funneling negative energy into something constructive is key to collaboration.

4. 90/10

Gary Barnett gets shit done

This rule comes from one of the best leaders I have had the privilege to work my ass off for. Gary Barnett‘s 90/10 rule kept our championship football team on a path forward. If you’re not improving you are getting worse. Your team must spend 90% of its time being productive and getting better and 10% on the other stuff. This applies to companies and products. As well as the skills and knowledge of individuals. Time spent dicking around on Facebook or worrying about BS is time wasted.

5. Have Fun

Team Seekr having fun

As designers, it is important to work on products that you are passionate about. This makes work inherently more enjoyable. Additionally, its no secret how laughter is vital to individual health. Having fun while working on fun shit is the best of both worlds. Crack jokes, poke fun, high five, fist bump, maybe even give your teammate a big bear hug when they come up with a kick ass idea. Whatever you do to promote camaraderie and collaboration never forget your coworkers are humans and they should be treated that way.


I am currently a student in BDW’s 50 week program.

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