My band has a deep bench. We are all multi-faceted. I’m the drummer, but we have another guy that can play drums, and a third that will cover in a pinch. The two of them are both guitarists, electric and bass, respectively, but they can both play acoustic. Our lead guitarist can also play keys. We’re all better than average singers, each one able to sing lead or provide harmony. You can understand how important that is to a praise band that has to lead worship every Sunday. We each have to miss occasionally for business trips and family vacations, and the ability to cover for each other is invaluable. But more than that, it makes it more enjoyable. I’m happy for the opportunity to step out from behind my set and give my vocal chords some exercise.
Interaction designers often make the argument that they don’t need to know how to implement the UI, or they don’t have to be good at visual design, because they work in teams that include members with those skill sets. I would argue that your design team is going to be more efficient, more effective—more successful—if you have a deep bench. If every designer in your group can contribute to the visual design, help produce graphics, create wireframes, structure content, write HTML and CSS, lead customer meetings, and gather user research, you are going to have a much more flexible team capable of doing more than if each person focused on one of those activities.
At An Event Apart in 2010, Jared Spool stated:
“Coding and designing are collections of skills. What we’ve learned is teams with a better distribution of skills, not segmented by roles, produce better results.”
If you currently have a team of segmented roles, the good news is that that’s the perfect place to start. All you need to do now is cross-train. Build yourself a deep bench.