The Architect and the Builder: Learning to Collaborate

October 8, 2015 Chris Spann



One of the hardest things we do as professionals is collaborate. We hear it preached from mountaintops, in all caps strewn across motivational posters, and as the opening salvo of self-help seminars: “TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAMWORK!” Few sane individuals in the modern world will disagree with these sentiments, so the question becomes:

Do these ‘preachers’ grasp the true difficulty associated with collaboration?

In the 20’s, a group of very wise German educators and designers took a stab at understanding teamwork, as part of the Bauhaus school. One of the most influential ideas they dragged into popular thought was that in order to collaborate we have to break down the division between he architect and the builder. The Bauhaus school claimed that as we solve the problems facing our society both big and small, the design should never come at the expense of the message. In art, product design, engineering their message was simple – it needs to work, period.

The strange looking cradle shown below is a great early example of the Bauhaus philosophy put to practical use. The designers created something very bold and eye catching that will never be mistaken for a competitor’s cradle. Simultaneously, the circles on each end serve a specific purpose of making the cradle easy to rock, and the triangular design creates extra space for the user eliminating an edge of the cradle.

cradleEven modern sensations like the iPhone, your favorite coffee table from IKEA, and the Dyson Ball vacuum have taken these principles to heart and become enormous successes because in today’s world consumers want experiences that are focused on utility without any frills to distract them. We live in a world where just about everything is vying for a larger share of our attention, and even a small alleviation is a huge relief. These products are prime examples of how organizations are breaking down divisions between conceptualizers and builders to yield a more focused, usable end result. Engaged employees take tremendous pride in what they produce, and it’s important for employees in all phases of development to be able to see their imprint on a final product.

As we think about engaging employees in today’s workplace, finding an appropriate means to break down the barrier between the members of your company who develop strategies and ideas, and those who build them out, is paramount to any cohesive team. So as we collaborate, pom-poms in hand, those wishing to be successful need to be pragmatic about the challenges associated with working together.

  1. For the artists, strategists, architects, upper level managers, it’s difficult to divorce yourself from a concept or idea you fall in love with in your head. As the collaboration process moves, the original concept moves further and further away from the way you imagine it because it’s no longer yours.
  2. Accepting feedback is really difficult, occasionally heartbreaking and something we learn over time. When others project their vision onto our ideas it can often seem as though their reacting negatively to our work.
  3. Collaboration forces people to move at different ‘professional rhythms’, and having to adapt can be really frustrating. Everyone prefers a slightly different amount of structure during the work process. While some employees like to make detailed plans, others prefer using trial and error to get projects done.

There isn’t a rule book on how to collaborate, or what the correct behaviors are. However, understanding what the pain points are and why they’re painful gives you a higher likelihood of sidestepping them. The secret to working well as a team isn’t understanding the value of teamwork, it’s understanding what difficult about it.


About the Author

Chris Spann

Christopher Spann is a Graphic Designer, Content Writer, and Marketer for

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