Why pairs make great product teams

During the intense summer we had here in Austin, I was fortunate enough to partner with a husband and wife team on their dream product at Funsize. Together, they used their years of unrelated professional experience to create something entirely new, essentially acting as co-owners and project managers.They came to Funsize looking for several things, most importantly validity through constant evaluation. Working with Rick from Funsize as our own pair, we helped them take their ideas and shape them into something tangible, ready to test. Because of the unique relationship our client partners had with each other, we were faced with new and unexpected challenges. Learning about their relationship was more valuable than the details of the product itself. Where to expect ideas to come from, how to engage each person individually, and when to take a step back. Together, they would decide the future of their product, and it was our responsibility to guide them in the right direction. I wouldn’t say that their relationship heavily depended on this product’s success, but they were shaping their careers into something they shared, and more importantly work didn’t end after they left the design studio.

Some of the techniques I learned while working with them have had immediate success with new projects and clients:
– Everyone is a designer and responsible for managing the project. Since this couple was working together, they will have strong opinions about most things. Make sure their ideas are captured somewhere.
– Knowing when to take something offline and let the team members internalize the issue before prescribing solutions.
– Leverage each partner’s skill set and opinion. If the husband is great at system thinking and UX, get on the whiteboard with him. If the wife understands the market, develop user stories together. Don’t leave great ingredients out to spoil.
– Develop sprint plans together. Everyone has to be present and aware of the game plan, so nothing pops up later incomplete. Missed connections can slow things down big time.
– Design feedback comes from a deeper place that isn’t well understood, so staying humble and being aware of the subjective nature of working with a partnership of that level will help keep the spirit up.
– Everyone must explain their position on a subject, so the entire team is on the same page. This helps everyone understand one another and creates an open environment based on collaboration.

“’As iron sharpens iron’, each stimulates the other to more active thought than might occur in solo design. Perhaps the very need to articulate one’s thinking — to state why as well as what— causes quicker perception of one’s own fallacies and quicker recognition of other viable design alternatives.” – Frederick P. Brooks Jr., The Design of Design.