Good teams are better than the best individuals

The greatest design talents work well in teams and are willing to share their skills and build on each other’s expertise.

Since 2008 Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) has taken part in training the designers of the future. Already in 2012 the American magazine Business Insider placed CIID on their list of the 25 best design schools in the world, based on employability.

CEO of CIID Simona Maschi says in her presentation at the DDC Conference ‘Future Design – Innovation in a Digital World’, that it partially is a matter of setting the strongest team, rather than selecting the most talented individuals.

“I would like to start by showing you a student project,” Simona Maschi says, and immediately leaves the stage for Momo and Andrew, who appear in a video projection waving at the audience.

“Hi! We are very different, but in spite of our differences, we have something in common,” they say almost simultaneously. “We both moved to Denmark, and we don’t know how to pronounce anything.” Then they both struggle their way through the street name ‘Kvæsthusgade’, more or less successfully.

What the Ph…?

For a project running for about one week at CIID, Momo and Andrew developed “What the Phonics?” – a device that can be attached to the street signs in the city. A strip of LED lights and a voice in a small hand held speaker guides you through the pronunciation of the street name. The light follows the voice, flashing the syllables: Kvæst-hus-ga-de.

The short video demonstrates several of the points in Simona Maschi’s presentation on how CIID incubate the design-led talent of tomorrow: With a problem-driven approach to the design process, making prototypes that can be tested immediately and working in teams.

The students at CIID come from all over the world and from very different backgrounds. They learn to build on each other’s different knowledge and expertise, as well as benefitting from each other’s different mind-sets.

“We don’t select the best individuals that apply to the school, we try to compose the best team,” Simona Maschi says. “We ask people what skills they want to share, and we select the students who wants to share and teach their skills.”

This approach can be beneficial for the industry as well, she thinks.

“This idea of working in teams, I think is also quite interesting for the industry. Hiring teams is a totally new way of facing innovation. People need to know how to work together, so the hiring system can move from individual based to be more performance based,” Simona Maschi says.

An incubator for the design talents of the future

Working together so intensely gives the students not only the design- and technical skills that they need, but also social skills that are important in a global and complex world. So the cross-cultural teamwork has turned out to be a valuable, unexpected part of the curriculum.

“The school becomes a place where students come from all over the world and learn to work together. Not just in terms of design skills and technical skills, but respecting each other’s mind-set. And that is crucial when they go out and start performing in a global enterprise or even in a small design studio, because everyone is now in touch with the world, Simona Maschi says.

“Don’t wait too long before you move from an idea to a prototype. And bring the prototype out into the context, where people can actually try it out and see.”

Since 2008 CIID has trained 128 students from more than 38 countries resulting in 525 projects.

50% of the alumni try to start their own business and CIID has initiated the Incubator ‘CIID Nest’ to support the start-ups.

“Our vision is creating an incubator that incubates value for people; where the thing you really want to find out is the costumer satisfaction and costumer experience, and business and technology serve as medium to enable that.”

Hear more about the seven start-ups that are currently part of CIID Nest and about the 50 experts that have chosen to fly in from all over the world on a regular basis to mentor the entrepreneurs in Simona Maschi’s presentation ’Incubating design-led talent of tomorrow’ on YouTube.