The best thing about Hand and Jain’s “Power of Eight” project and article is the practical advice that extends beyond the challenges of co-design and normal group work by considering working wit ha group which has even less commonality among members, necessarily, than one would find in other design projects. It’s a reminder that in thinking about non traditional forms of design, it will reflect back on everyday practice in important ways. Bringing in a truly interdisciplinary team to work in the context of design where the participants have a different state of mind than other diverse situations like co-design or participatory design: they have volunteered, yes, but still do not have the same kind of investment.
Jain describes using visualization and storytelling processes not to “build consensus” but rather to find common ground. Setting these kind of priorities and expectations for people with different sets of values seems critical: you cannot expect the same kinds of progress when you have an interdisciplinary team; things must function differently. Yet, the team remains grounded in design methodology as the common meeting point. It would be interesting to know how the process would have looked differently if the methods shaping the project had, themselves, been an interdisciplinary mix stemming from the expertise of the participants rather than all design-style activities in which many forms of expertise participated.
These are lessons and distinctions that can feed back into all types of design practice: when do we need to build consensus and when do we just need to reach a common ground? When do we need to operate within uncertainty and when do we really need to embrace new kinds of messy and organic processes? These are questions from the avant garde of collaborative DIY futuring, but they reflect tensions already evident in all modes of design.