Posted in practice on March 1, 2016 9:39 am EST

5 Phrases That Kill Collaboration

Certain criticisms are too generic to spur on better ideas and the action behind them. Here, some phrases that tend to stop the flow of ideas in their tracks ... and some suggestions for what to say instead.











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TAGS: architectural design, collaboration, education, philosophy,


By Cathy Hutchison

"Not only should you permit the unrestricted divergence of ideas, but you should protect the creative spirit from the start.”

—Bryann Alexandros, Professional Facilitator

Ask most design firm representatives if they believe in collaboration, and the answer will be a resounding “yes.” Yet, few of us are trained in the people skills needed to make collaboration happen. In fact, many of us unknowingly shape our dialogue in ways that work against it. The following are five phrases that kill collaboration along with some ideas on what to say instead to keep the ideas flowing:

1. “I don’t like it.”

The problem with saying we don’t like something is that it is too generic to be actionable. It will often stop the conversation because no one is certain what to say next—or worse, it forces people to defend their idea (which won’t make us suddenly like it). A better response than “I don’t like it” would be to ask clarifying questions to create time to figure out why a solution being presented isn’t the right path. For example, if a designer reveals a logo that you don’t care for, you may ask: “What is the strategy behind the colors?” or “How does this solution communicate our mission?” Asking clarifying questions can shape the dialogue in a way that makes people discuss the “why” of a solution, and hopefully get to a better one.

2. “That is overdesigned.”

While the “overdesigned” gauntlet is great in a game of one-upsmanship, it is terrible for getting people to work together toward an improved design solution. Why? Because it insinuates the designer doesn’t have the client’s interests at heart. A better approach is to acknowledge the design work, and ask if there is a way to simplify.

3. “That looks dated.”

This phrase is popular because it positions the person who said it as the style-maker and the person who presented the “dated” idea as out-of-touch. Given the popularity of brands like Shinola and Converse, retro is always fashionable. A better response is to describe the look that is desired. For example, sharing, “Our client is more Starbucks meets REI. How might we achieve that aesthetic?” will foster better ideas than simply stating that the current idea looks dated.  continued >>