The businesses of today, in terms of role structure, are flatter than pancakes.
Hierarchical authority and a “that’s not my job” mindset hold little water in contemporary workplaces. The products and services now being welcomed into the marketplace are driven by product development teams that function as a single, holistic brain.
Gone are the days of Henry Ford’s assembly line, wherein each worker only knew how to build, repair or attach a single widget. This old-school sort of fractured working and thinking, though efficient at first glance, will never yield a perfect product. Rather, it disjoints each member of the team and makes for a motley, mismatched patchwork of miscommunicated ideas and missed opportunities. When team members don’t come together as an orderly, democratic body, the enterprise can’t help but come off as a little haphazard.
Try having 10 different people write 10 different chapters of the same book. No matter how much advice and direction you give each one before they sit down to write, the final products won’t dovetail. It won’t feel organic. The seams will show. In a word, it will just feel wrong.
Everyone has their unique accent and flavor so strongly tied to the way they problem-solve that individual voices inevitably shine through. Businesses who realize this and institutionalize an inclusive, integrative approach that values each member are better off for it.
The act of being integrative runs from that first, nebulous meetings about design, function and goal all the way through prototyping and mass production. For example, an engineer could be charged with designing a PCB to fit into a unit’s enclosure. In theory, she wouldn’t have to understand anything about the rest of the product’s requirements. Our engineer merely goes about one, modestly limited task, ignoring all other aspects.
Now imagine this engineer is not only part of the PCB design, but the entire unit at large. Her job, and therefore her influence, expands as she is given the freedom to discuss the unit’s capability and limitations at length with her team. Our engineer might catch a problem that affects the PCB, say a fickle antenna or awkward user interface, that would otherwise cause headache down the road.
By nature, the movement toward being integrative calls for a sturdier knowledge base for all those involved. For a singular team to propel a project from start to end, its members need to have a deep, cumulative understanding of all the factors and fields surrounding the product. The personnel with the technical expertise and “big ideas” also need to be able to function in a social, reactive atmosphere.
The natural evolution of such a work climate is more “full-service” development companies. Such entities are chock full of experts in specific fields with workable, growing capability in a galaxy of related subjects.
Being a jack-of-all-trades is coming back into style, but not in the way you probably thought. The new trend positions the pantological business expert of the future as a visionary devil’s advocate, not an assembly line drone.
At Pivot International, we have long held the distinction of being a fully integrated product design, development, and manufacturing firm. Our global, company-owned support operations provide our clients with the benefits of working with a domestic organization and the financial advantages of international tooling, procurement & manufacturing. Contact us today for a free consultation.