Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mastering the Mix

A few years ago, I was describing my then team to a potential customer/business partner. I took pains to highlight that the team consisted of veterans in ID and graphics design and as a result, we avoided the common pitfalls and gained on productivity. To me, this differentiated our company from other larger competitors in India. The customer/partner didn't look impressed at all and remarked that his company only hired fresh talent because they were so much more creative. Honestly, for a moment I felt dowdy.

The business partnership never took off, but his remark stayed with me for a long time. Over the years, I figured out something about e-learning development teams- for a team to flourish, you need a bit of this and a bit of that.

You need the experienced folks because you don't want to reinvent the wheel each time. If developing training for, say, a software application, there are only so many ways to do it effectively. If a person who has never done it before creates it, the output is wasteful and never as good as it should be, however creative that person may be. That single person's creativity across one project just can't compete with ideas implemented and fine-tuned over years by thousands of people. I have seen this first hand 10 years ago and then again recently.

Experienced people usually have a repository of tools and templates to fall back on. But there's a problem even here. They are quick to jump to conclusions and solutions, without looking at a particular situation deeply. For this reason, you also need rookies who are not yet molded into a set style. Rookies, who lack these tools, struggle a lot more, but are more likely to experiment and try out new ideas. They see things with a fresh pair of eyes. The end result is likewise refreshing. I have experienced this first hand too a few times, most recently when I worked with a creative young designer on a module teaching voice commands to cadets.

Sounds simplistic and obvious no? On paper yes, but in reality, the challenge in building and sustaining such a mixed team is in the dynamics of the team on the ground. Are they able to work together, contributing the best they have, or are they busy putting each other down? Are rookies learning from the past experiences where needed or repeating the mistakes arrogantly? Are the experienced folks allowing the rookies to experiment and valuing their new insights? Or are they busy trying to mold them into the  familiar?

It is precisely because it is so hard to make such a team work effectively that organizations tend to be of one or the other type. But when you master the mix, magic is possible.

(Image from: http://www.vectorfree.com/paint-explosion)

No comments:

Post a Comment