Products are developed by large multi-disciplinary teams. The teams deal with many topics requiring the expertise of several specialists simultaneously. They have to decide together if something is a problem; propose multi-disciplinary solutions; and align their activities into a seamless whole. Stated differently: team members have to ‘think collectively’, which is named team cognition.
In September 2012, Guido Stompff received his PhD at Technical University of Delft, faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. The topic was team cognition in high tech development teams, and how designers contribute to it. He learned that designers have a somewhat hidden contribution to teams: they enable teams to span complex boundaries, such as between departments, e.g., marketing and R&D; between specialisms, e.g., hard- and software engineering, and even between organizational boundaries when several organizations collaborate. Yet, designers are not nominated boundary spanners, and not even have awareness of this contribution. Rather, it is the practice of designing that enables boundary spanning.
With their well developed imagination, user-centered focus and expressive skills they can easily ‘translate’ technical and business choices to the realm of product and users. They sketch and prototype what they interpret what the intended product is on the base of choices of others. This turned out to be a language that everybody understands, as everybody in a way is a user and understand ‘products’. It provides a common ground to discuss and reflect on choices made. This is named ‘mirroring’, which is conceptualized as the dynamical and ongoing redrafting of representations of the intended product, enabling team members to align and coordinate activities cross-disciplinary.