The show we focused on was „Project Runway“, season 8, episode 5 ”there is an ‘I’ in Team”. Project Runway is an American Reality show in which sixteen ambitious designers compete over a period of 16 weeks in order to win financial and commercial support to build up their own fashion line. After each episode the weakest designer has to leave the show. In this particular episode the designers were split up into two groups of each 6 members. We paid attention on the team “Luxe” (Menswear and Camel) [A.J., Andy, Christopher, Gretchen, Ivy and Michael].
The goal of the group was to design a 6 piece collection for fall 2010 within 24 hours. The collection includes menswear for women with colors in camel tints. The goal is to design a better collection than the competing team and so win the challenge. The winner team will have immunity for this episode, while the weakest member of the loosing team will be sent home.
The environment where the reality show takes place is in New York, “Parsons The New School for Designers”. The designers have to fulfill their tasks in a design studio where they can constantly observe the work and progress of their competitors.
Regarding our initial impressions we agreed that the team “Luxe” represented a group of egocentric “self-proclaimed superstars”, which might negatively affect their team work. We found out that although the team work was supposed to have no hierarchy, like a leading person, Gretchen overtook the group leading position. Right from the beginning we observed a lack of honoring individual ideas, as well as a lack of empathy among the group members. We got the impression that this decreased the interest to help other struggling group members as well as confessing own difficulties.
We all agreed that the team members had their specific characteristics and their position within the team (Gretchen as leader, Michael as the weakest designer, A.J. as loner of the group etc.) but never the less we had different explanations for the group members’ behavior.
We noticed that some of us based our initial impressions of the group and its members on the comments of the competing team (a competitive designer called Gretchen “Hitler”), while others ignored these comments, trying to form their own opinion free from external influences.
Our group had the opinion that the dynamic of the “Luxe” team could be observed best by their communicative behavior (not listening to each other, being impolite or even ignoring individual ideas and gossiping about other team members).
There is indeed evidence of discrimination and prejudice within the team. The team takes the behavior of the group members from previous episodes and challenges as a bench mark and expect the individuals to fulfill these prejudice in the teamwork as well (a good designer is going to be a good team member and the other way around). As a result of these prejudice some members are discriminated (by ignoring their ideas) while other team members seem to be followed blindly as they are expected to be most talented.
One strength of the group is the constellation itself, the group has the highest number of winners (as regards previous challenges) in the team. They seemed to be strong in planning, separating each task. This means that everyone is doing what he or she is able to do best. But taking a closer look on these points it seems that they are not able to implement these theoretical strengths. The planning of the work has no good organization. It seems that they tried to implement their collection from the beginning to the end without discussing the progress and difficulties that occur. The differentiation of the tasks was built on the assumption that everyone is able to do his job satisfyingly well. Never the less it turns out that they don’t trust in each other’s skills and there for interfere in the work of the others. This leads to a lack of time for finishing their individual work, a dissatisfaction to the team members whose work is changed (a feeling of no trust) and even to negative influences on the collection´s quality and design. This makes episode 5 one of the most hectic shows of Project Catwalk season 8.
Trying to identify the group´s biggest weakness we agreed that they lost the challenge due to their lack of communication. This lack of communication resulted in a failed implementation of their “ to do list” and led to massive time pressure. Consequently they had to ask their models for help (sewing the pieces) in order to meet the deadline. Another hint for the lack of communication could be seen during a feedback session with an instructor: The group was required to explain the progress of their work, but wasn´t able to do so. The biggest evidence can be seen in their failure to present a proportional and harmonic collection: The jury criticized that they created a collection which had no proportional connection. From our point of view this weakness, lack of communication, is the biggest problem of the group. It determines the entire process of designing the collection and has a huge negative impact on their work.
In our opinion the following points could have improved the performance of the group:
- Regular Meetings: in order to identify coming up strengths and weaknesses of the process
- Specific Progress-Goals: in order to stay in time and “force” themselves to keep in touch.
- Democratic Decision Making: in order to increase equal acceptance of individual contributions to improve the amount of creativity.
- Keeping in mind the main goal of the challenge: individual interest beyond the team interest.
In total we believe that having set specific progress goals at the beginning of the challenge would have helped the group to perform much better. Establishing progress goals leads to a better time management as there are several deadlines to meet during the progress (many deadlines mean fulfilling several smaller tasks rather than one major goal). Automatically it also leads to better communication within the group as it forces them to regularly share their progress. Possible difficulties of the task would be identified much earlier. Therefore they can react earlier on that. Thanks to these specific progress goals they are more likely to get closer to succeeding the challenge.
In conclusion it was interesting to see that the favored team (the team with most talented designers) was not capable to fulfill the demands of dealing with group work.