What if I don't perform in group projects?

This is the scenario: I like what I’m learning but I’m not doing well when it comes to doing assignments and working in teams - i’m getting rubbish grades and my portfolio is rushed. However, I’m working on a personal project and it’'s getting me huge rewards. I’m even going to get a slot on a local radio station (seriously).

So in conclusion, when it comes to teamwork, I just don’t perform. However, when I go out on my own, I produce much better work.

When it comes to looking for job, is this a good thing? Is it possible to land in a good position on the grounds of my personal work, or do employers look only at the stuff that was done in collaboration with other people?

Have you asked yourself what causes you to not perform well in teams? In academic settings teams are obviously challenged - there’s no incentive/punishment typically like there is in the real world, so some kids will do the bare minimum work and still get the same grade as everyone else.

But if you can’t work with other people you will probably fail as a designer. Even if you work as a freelancer doing your own thing, at some point in time you need to collaborate with engineers, manufacturers, and other designers.

Employers will want to see both - your own personal flare and how you have successfully worked in teams. If every project in a team is visibly worse than the rest of your work, it may raise some questions.

I’d look more carefully at the reasons why you don’t feel like you can do good work in a group and try to address them.

First I need to say that you need to learn how to work in a team. I do not know your current situation, but I can tell you that designing in a one man team will never produce the best possible solution because it is only your point of view. You also will never be challenged if you go at it on your own. What is the issue you see yourself having when working in teams? Is it just the team you have been working in? I think you really need to evaluate that and see what it is that you may change to help the situation.

As far as the job search goes…Most employers are going to want you to be able to work in team of not only designers but also a cross functional team of Marketing, Sales, Engineering, and so on. Even if you go off on your own and start your own thing you will still have to work with others. I encourage you to take a step back and like I mentioned before look at what is not working and figure out how you can fix it.

In academic settings teams are obviously challenged - there’s no incentive/punishment typically like there is in the real world, so some kids will do the bare minimum work and still get the same grade as everyone else.

I do agree that team work might be challenging in an academic setting. In my opinion the main reason is because there is not a widely accepted hierarchy within the the group. Everybody is a student and even if the teacher points out a group leader, it will most likely result in tension, making the group leader the scapegoat and work horse picking up the slack of the less motivated group members.

I also would like to know why you think that your group work is not so strong?
Hierarchy has been an issue for me in past at bachelor level but I have worked on it and now at a Masters level, I enjoy group work a lot. Everybody respects everybody and I can truly say that our collective work is greater than the sum of its parts.
It is a great experience.

To play devil’s advocate with the above, and to be totally honest, I think team academic projects are total crap. There is no one with experience to add to the group dynamic and it ends up being the blind leading the blind, design by committee garbage. Imature undergraduates who know little about design and even less about team work are beig asked to collaborate, pointless. Focus on your personal skills and portfolio. Grades are pointless anyway. Just pass!

In the real world, team work can be important (not always though). Most likely you will be on a multi-dimensional team with different levels of experience and varied areas of expertise. Then it will be important to listen and learn. Show this with your tone in your interview, make sure your communications show that you are open to learning from others, and your not some punk who thinks he knows it all. But make sure your portfolio shows your work! I I’m interviewing you, I could give a crap about something another student on your team did!

Man, yo. Dunno what it is, but you need a new keyboard or something. So many letters were left out of that post that I couldn’t understand half of what you said.

That said, I don’t entirely agree (but what do I know, I’m just an immature undergrad) with abandoning all academic group projects. Yeah, some of them completely suck, but I look at it from the point that if you can deal with group work with a project you hate and people you’re not good with, then you would be able to excel when you’re working with more experienced people on projects you care about.

I’d work on your groupwork skills, then, seeing as any project will pretty much be group based (even if it’s a group of 2: you and your client).

fixed it, typed that on the iPhone, on the train, after getting a couple drinks with some guys from Astro… I don’t mean the immature undergrad comment as an insult, just as a fact of where undergrads are at. I hate to say “you’ll understand when your older”, but you will.

I was disagreeing with this a little when I read it, but I think it is different at different points in academia. At a masters level, you do have a more varied group that can draw from backgrounds which you might not have been exposed - not the same as an undergrad. Also, the people in those kinds of programs are a little more motivated I would think.

I remember being in an undergraduate team projects that I thought was successful, but when I really think about it, it was an ID-Arch joint project and each camp had different things to offer

Anyway, you will ALWAYS work with other people when you get out, designers or other, and interpersonal skills are important to learn

I’m with Yo on this one, I hated group projects when I was in school (except for one where we agreed to share what was beneficial but also were allowed to pursue our own ideas). It ends up being more about the personal interaction instead of designing the product and solving the problem. A group setting has to be like a marriage, the fit has to be there, if not, too much time is spent on the wrong issues. In school, I have my students work on their own projects, that way a weaker person can’t hide in the group, or a stronger one dominate while the weaker doesn’t learn as much as they could’ve if they had to struggle on their own. Also it’s frustrating if you know you happened to be the person that did most of the work but the slacker now also has a nice portfolio piece, etc…
In the work environment, the managers have to be really on their game to pick a good combination for a team, they have to know the designers well and how they’ll interact. With student groups, it does become design by committee or the dominant personalities bulldog their way over the others to get what they want. In school, I want the students on their own to learn the most about design as they can. Their portfolio when they graduate should have work that’s clearly their own so that they’re confident in their skills and where they stand against their other peers. Too many group projects in school lets the weaker fish float on through.

I think it all depends on the team and how well everyone knows each other. I personally worked on some really great teams in school where we all knew each others strengths and weaknesses and we organized it that way. I also worked on some where they were complete crap and two of us were stuck doing all the work from a five person team. The cool thing about this project was that we had the option to fire a team member, which we did. He then had the option to do it on his own or drop the class.

I also feel that the prof can totally tell who is working and who isn’t. I do many sponsored project through work and we can pick out the ones that are floating by every time. And to all the students out there, we do relay that back to the prof.

I think the key here is you are in one of these teams and everyone is on totally different pages than you need to step up and take control. This does not mean that you need to say it is my way or go home, it means that you need to listen to everyone and get them aligned. If there is one thing that these projects can teach you it is how to lead a team, but no one is going to tell you to do it, you have to do it on your own. This is no different than when you get out into the real world. Yes you will have a boss when you get a job and there will be others above you, but you will still be faced with teams that may be so chaotic that it takes for ever to get things done. In these situations you have to take the initiative to get it done.

Group projects in my professional opinion are probably one of the most important skill you can learn, and if you feel you aren’t very good at it, work on it! It teaches you important leadership and social skills. The fact is that ever if you end up working as a solo designer, you still need those group skills because in a way, your clients become " your team". My advice, work on it, try different things, there are technics that can be learned, books on the subject, etc…