I was reading Starting a Business: Advice from the Trenches: A List Apart
and along with the usual– get an accountant, do you really need an office, etc– came across this slightly unexpected bit of advice; get a partner. “A partner will keep you on your toes. When you want to buy that $2,000 scanner, he or she should question why. If you want to design a promotional piece, it should be a group effort to get the best results. If you start to slack off, he or she will be there to remind you of business priorities. No one can do everything, and two complementary skill sets create an asset that cannot be reproduced when flying solo.”
I’ve long thought about partnerships in design processes… xtreme programming advocates pair programming for speed, quality and to avoid the bus factor. Cooper adapts this in their design approach, pairing an interaction designer with a design communicator on all projects. AIfIA, in the beginning, tried to make sure all project leaders had co-leaders, as volunteering can be onerous (though it turns out sometimes a short burst from a determined individual can be just as valuable. Actually, when you’re a volunteer organization, anytime anyone does anything it’s valuable).
But lately I’ve been adding to this contemplation of the value of partners the consideration of creative conflict. Creative Conflict is what my former creative director at Egreetings used to call it when two folks were going at it like cats and dogs over a design choice. Unlike many folks who shun conflict, he welcomed it and encouraged it. He explained it to me like this: Creative Conflict is when two viewpoints on how to design –slightly to very out-of-sync– come together in a passionate but constructive argument and enhance product quality. (paraphrased, sorry rossi!)
Lately I have come across the concept of Creative Abrasion which sounds a lot like Creative Conflict to me.
“Each of us is hard-wired and highly proficient in some modes of thinking and relatively uncomfortable with others. Yet, if we are to spark innovation, we need the intellectual disagreement that raises options.” — Dorothy Leonard, When Sparks Fly.
Ms. Leonard champions designing teams with members from different backgrounds to create conflict for the purpose of enabling innovation.
In a talk in which he embraces this concept, John Seeley Brown says “Disciplines are not very good at interacting with each other. Just walk into any type of campus. So the catch to me is: how do you create a space of pluralism that somehow manages to foster and honor a kind of creative abrasion. So you can get ideas that really rub against each other productively as opposed to destructively.” and talks about it in terms of physical space that allows disciplines to interact and argue safely.
And now I’m wondering now if the real value of a partner is someone to argue with (which means your partner must be someone you *can* argue with).
So I think the question next to ask yourself is who are your design partners… who do you argue with, who cares about making good design as you do, who can hold the knowledge of the design along with you, and who makes your design better?
Off hand I’d think any designer would need a business partner to fight to balance business and design, a user advocate partner so the designer can fight for elegance over mass appeal (and vice-versa) a technology partner to fight to push the borders of what’s possible… and all these battles if done respectfully, eloquently, thoughtful and with the best interest of the product at heart should be better than mere design by committee.
So finding a partner requires finding someone
and a bigger question is, if you have only one partner (such as in the article that kicked off this thoughtwander), who can provide you the creative abrasion you need, while still being a good partner for creation of not only design but of a business?