The Hybrid Mentality

There’s an interesting industry trend taking place right now. We've come across article after article advocating designers who code and coders who design. What does this really mean? Is this a sustainable and efficient model? No, it’s not.

Okay, we get it.

It’s easy to see why the concept of a hybrid hire has gained traction, it offers an almost utopian ideal. When Designers code, the design is created with the build and technical implications in mind. When Coders design, they understand the rationale behind the minutiae and are more willing to work toward finding a solution instead of shutting down seemingly superfluous ideas. Projects run smoother, and communication gaps don't exist. With confusion and competition eradicated, the team should be able to focus on the project and produce high-quality work in a seamless, collaborative environment.

While we're 100% on board with attempts to remove any inter-departmental conflict and streamline a project—the more efficient we are, the more amazing work we’re able to produce for clients—but, hiring people who specialize in both dev and design isn’t the way to accomplish this. It’s putting a band-aid on the real problem.

Why not hybrids?

When you hire someone who straddles multiple fields, you sacrifice something: Expertise. It takes years to become an expert in any given topic. Specialization means having the freedom to take a deep dive into problems from a particular angle in order to find new solutions. It doesn’t limit what someone can contribute, it frees up focus and time so that people are able to contribute in a more meaningful way. Hybrids possess surface-level knowledge of multiple areas of expertise. While they offer a valuable aerial perspective, they can’t take the deep dive and explore unusual solutions—the knowledge base just isn’t there. An effective communication strategy should deliver the same broad view and collaboration without sacrificing the deeper dive.

Communication. Yes, that again.

Collaboration is the nature of the business. It has to be. No team should work in a silo. Everyone needs to brings their expertise to the table to achieve a common goal, but what happens when everyone is at the table? Designers and developers have to possess a base-level understanding of each other’s disciplines and a common language in order to work together efficiently, but the reality is that sometimes, communication fails.

During a meeting for one of our internal projects, it became pretty clear that design and dev were saying the same thing, using different terms. When dev said “module", they were referring to design’s “component” and vice versa. Frustration was running pretty high as each side tried to get the other to understand what they were saying. We paused the meeting and took 15 minutes to write down definitions. Component = X. Module = Y.

When the meeting resumed, we were able to move beyond “sides” and work together, as a team, to outline the project’s goals and next steps. Making sure that your team is speaking the same language is part of breaking down superficial barriers that get in the way of collaboration.

Adios, Ego.

Managing egos often derails a project. It’s human nature: We have an idea, and we cling to it. We hold on to it so tightly that sometimes the idea isn’t able to breathe and flourish. In order for a project to move as smoothly as possible, everyone needs to let go of their ego.

This isn’t some Zen ideal. Letting go of ego means being receptive to other ideas, regardless of the source. Just because you’re an expert in your field doesn’t mean your idea is the best. Just because something seems like too much effort doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. We have to be prepared to move beyond our desire to be “right,” to be the one with the best ideas, and realize that the truly best ideas are the result of collaboration across disciplines. Often, when an idea comes from a different department, it can be perceived as an intrusion or a crossing of boundaries. It doesn’t really matter where an idea comes from. We have to consciously make the effort to remain open to input from all parties to ensure that our egos don’t get in the way of what we’re trying to achieve.

We all want the same thing.

Every member of a team, regardless of discipline, simply wants to know that they’re valued. Designers, Developers, Account Managers, Strategists, it doesn’t matter. A big part of fostering a collaborative environment is reminding everyone that they are an important part of the team and that their opinion is valued. There is no need to prove that you’re right if you feel confident in your role, and trust that everyone is working towards the same goal.

So what do you think? Are Hybrids the way to go, or are there better ways to yield the desired result?