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Strategy
4 min

Why a multidisciplinary team wins every time

by Kalev Peekna, Ryan Schulz March 3, 2022
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Solving modern marketing and business challenges requires diverse perspectives, multiple skillsets, smart strategy and fast, flawless execution. The best way to achieve all of that and more is to adopt a multidisciplinary approach—which ensures the right people are collaborating, in the most ideal way, to generate cutting-edge ideas and solutions.

What a true multidisciplinary approach looks like

How that collaboration happens makes all the difference. A waterfall approach, for example, seeks to include many teams on one project, but keeps everyone in their own lane. Agile methodology often integrates many capabilities but, given the pressure to deliver on short cycles, sometimes leads to one discipline dictating terms to the others. A true multidisciplinary approach combines stellar, t-shaped talent—who hold both depth and breadth of expertise across several disciplines—with trust and a broad set of skills. This creates a team poised to tackle virtually any user goal or challenge, no matter how complex. Putting those pieces together can be complicated; however, when it’s achieved, it’s like lightning in a bottle.

Need for speed

Many businesses and agencies operate like an assembly line. First strategy. Then creative. Then production. Everyone does their own part, one after the other. However, in a digital age, working in silos simply isn’t fast enough to keep up with the rapidity and velocity that stakeholders require. Companies are under pressure to increase speed to market. The best way to work is to have everyone at the table—from the get-go.

Super-specialized

There’s been rapid specialization in marketing. Twenty years ago, most teams didn’t have dedicated experts in UI, UX, motion design, SEO, etc. The capabilities of what these specialists bring to the table are additive, and they compound on each other. For example, creating an integrated campaign requires several disciplines to come together: design, content strategy, technology, etc.

Simply put, you need your specialists. But you don’t want them working in a specialized, isolated manner. The real trick is getting them to work in an interdisciplinary mode, where work isn’t “owned” by any one discipline, everyone contributes across all stages of development and people still know what they are accountable for.

It sounds like a lot to ask—and it is—but it’s not impossible. When done right, a multidisciplinary approach will greatly improve outcomes in the competitive battleground of the 21st century: your customer’s experience.

4 more reasons why multidisciplinary teams win

1. They’re more efficient.

With a multidisciplinary approach, multiple things are happening at the same time. When work is done in parallel, what might take six months using traditional methods can often be done in nearly half the time. Even the work that doesn’t go faster sees less rework down the line, since you’re getting more input and expertise along the way.

2. They’re more effective.

To be effective, you need all points of view coming together. When you bring different perspectives and experiences to the table, the outcome is better and more unified. It’s especially true for digital experiences, where Technology, Design and UX disciplines all have valuable answers to questions like, “What is possible/desirable/viable?” Multidisciplinary approaches are really the only user/human-centric way to solve a challenge. Think about the “Principles of Inclusivity.” It’s been proven time and time again, having a variety of voices in the room gets you a better answer.

3. They’re more innovative.

Having different viewpoints together unlocks breakthrough thinking. For example, we include technologists in the design process because they bring a fresh perspective and can envision what’s technically possible in exactly the same moment that a designer is imagining what is best for the user.

4. They’re more fun.

It’s more enjoyable for everyone involved. Employees get exposure to different people, skillsets and new ways of thinking. And they grow as a result. It’s actually an important part of One North’s own talent recruitment. People know they won’t be stuck in a box, working on the same thing. Their contribution shapes all aspects of a client project.

Making your team multidisciplinary

A multidisciplinary approach can be useful for organizations with large in-house marketing departments. Especially today, when CMOs are expected to be knowledgeable on everything from CX to data strategy, having specialists all at the table weighing in gives CEOs a more complete perspective.

When looking for a partner to provide additional support, choosing to work with an agency that prioritizes a multidisciplinary approach is key. Not only do you reap the benefits already outlined, but you also gain access to a full complexion of disciplines in one agency—eliminating the headache that comes with managing multiple agency relationships.

The must-haves

In addition to having different disciplines at the table, here are a few must-haves for implementing a multidisciplinary team.

  • The right structure: Oftentimes an organization’s internal structure can be a roadblock because it incentivizes people to work in silos, e.g., getting recognition for the work. With a multidisciplinary model, the focus is on the end product, versus revenue from one discipline. You can say, “Let’s be collaborative.” But if your balance sheet reinforces those divisions, it’s not going to work.
  • Leadership: A multidisciplinary team still needs someone at the helm. It doesn’t have to be the highest-paid person or the department head. Consider the best person for the project. Someone who knows all the disciplines, as well as their own area of expertise.
  • Perseverance: The multidisciplinary approach takes work. You need to establish teams, set up regular meeting times, and continuously determine what needs to be done and by whom. It can feel exhausting at first. But over time, you’ll end up with a positive team that finds it easier to pivot and change direction if needed. And, most importantly, the outcome will be much better.
  • Education and development: True multidisciplinary teams aren’t just a result of smart hiring. Creating programs and opportunities for people to learn outside of their core set of skills is essential. Giving people room to shadow and learn on projects makes that training real. Trusting them to do the job and trusting others to participate and share their ideas takes investment and purposeful resourcing.

Making it happen

Embracing a true multidisciplinary approach requires planning and investment. Like more formal methodologies, it needs to be done in an intentional way. The rewards and outcomes are measurable, but not necessarily at first. It may take time to be able to quantify the results. But when you do, your customers and your team will never want to go back.

 

Photo Credit: Dippyaman Nath | Unsplash

Kalev Peekna is the Chief Strategist at One North. He brings a cross-platform, user-focused approach to innovations in brand development, design, data analysis and technology, and helps clients apply those innovations to their strategic aims.

If I were a vegetable: I would be broccoli. Because I have always wanted someone to call me “cruciferous.”

Most unusual job: Cocktail bartender at a Cabaret

Managing Director of Agency Development, Ryan is responsible for helping to shape and grow design solutions for clients. He works across practices to develop programs and capabilities that help clients fall in love with the future.

Favorite color: Greenish

Favorite breakfast food: Breakfast tacos

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