The development of products and/or services often requires large, multidisciplinary teams in which specialists provide expertise, simultaneously. These specialists inside New Product Development (NPD) teams often find it hard to understand each other, as they use different jargon, have different views on the subject in question
, and deploy distinctive tools. This results into to boundary forming within the team. This post summarizes a book chapter on Advanced Design Methods, recently published: stompff-smulders mirroring the boundaryspanningpracticeofdesign
Designers, focusing on the usability and experience of use of product, have a boundary spanning capability in teams and organizations. Yet designers are not explicitly assigned the role of boundary spanners, nor are aware of this capability. It is their practice that enables them to span boundaries. Designers continually translate technical choices to the realm of product and/or user by means of expressive representations of the product. These representations are communicated in a language understood by all and this enables the other specialists to reflect on their choices and those of others, i.e. cross-disciplinary. I named this capability ‘mirroring’, because the process of translation of technical choices to consequences for product/user is like putting a mirror in front of the specialists, enabling them to reflect.
Two case studies are described where explicit mirroring process are shown to span complex boundaries, not only between specialists but also between organizations. Awareness of the mirroring process as well as the (visual) means deployed enhances boundary spanning. In this way, mirroring is a fruitful method for enhancing innovation and collaboration in organizations and multi-disciplinary teams.