Not to be disrespectful, but no, no it’s not. Meeting in the middle, AKA compromise, is the recipe for mediocracy. Sure, everyone feels like they had a say and if everyone’s say is weighted equally then ideals are compromised for the sake of the “collaborators” feelings, not the customer/end-user’s needs or wants, resulting in something less than the ideal. Most good designers can come up with ideals, and ideals will usually challenge what stakeholders think that they can actually achieve. A good ideal is something that everyone can agree is a good or great goal, that’s when you know it will delight the end-user, but it’s when team members/clients begin chipping away at that ideal that mediocracy or flat out failure begins to take hold. Since many designers speak in terms of ideals others assume they are ignorant of the “reality” of manufacturability, engineering, costs, business practices etc. And I think this is why designers sometimes get a bad wrap and why they get frustrated. The thing about ideals is that they challenge others to suspend reality, but the reality is that ideals are actually realities that have yet to be achieved, and that scares people because they’re afraid to fail, afraid to work hard, or afraid that a competitor is going to achieve the ideal first. I think that’s why a good leader is needed to inspire them with the vision to pull it off, and by good I mean someone who can maintain the vision and challenge the detractors to become contributors. In my experience it seems that leaders with design backgrounds tend to excel at this.
Groupthink is the antithesis of innovation, and somehow it has become all so commonplace to be hoisted as the foundation of it. The old phrase, “None of us is as smart as all of us”, is exactly as true as the phrase “None of us is as dumb as all of us”.
I have seen some very motivated lone wolves with a vision achieve some very impressive and amazing results relying on others only for answers to questions that seem vague to those being asked. I think it is good for designers always have at least one project that they initiate and own, don’t ask for permission!
I believe the foundation of good collaboration relies on a team that knows and respects each others roles, knowledge, and expertise, and someone leading them who knows how to prioritize it in an order that results in the best solutions for the customer/end-user/goal. I’ve seen engineering leaders defer to engineer’s input over others resulting in working products that have no appeal and are not intuitive. I’ve seen marketing leaders defer to marketer’s input over others resulting in great looking products that function poorly, are not competitively priced, and are a manufacturing throughput nightmare. And I have seen design leaders put together well thought out and intuitive product proposals that challenge the status quo hit the waste bin and never see so much as a prototype.
In my experience I have found that some leaders and other disciplines don’t really understand what designers bring to the process, or that design is a process in and of itself. Here’s how I’ve seen others fail to leverage designers:
Determine the solution first, then ask designers to make it work/look good.
Shut designers down when they start asking “too many” questions.
Shut designers down when they start critiquing an idea or pre-determined solution.
Assume that they’re “artists” who don’t understand manufacturing, math, physics, business practices, customers, etc.
Good ways to leverage designers:
Present them with the problem, then shut up and let them look for ways to solve it.
Ask them how they would have solved something differently.
Ask them to do research and provide insights and recommendations.
Present them with your own research and let them riff off of it.
Enpower them as your gatekeepers of the project vision with the veto power to maintain that vision.
Maybe this all goes down the rabbit hole further than you’d hoped, but I was a little surprised at the lack of responses on this topic, but to be fair there are quite a few threads related to this, some are just rants through.