Project Runway is a reality TV show, documenting the competition of talented fashion designers. Our group chose Episode 5 („There is an I in Team) from the current Season 8. In this episode, the remaining 12 designers had to work in teams of 6, which were determined through each person picking the next person in their team, with Michael C. Beginning, since he won the previous challenge. The selection resulted in team „Military/Lace“ and team „Menswear/Camel“.
Our group chose to analyze team „Menswear/Camel“ because their team consisted of all the winners from the previous four challenges, therefore were the favorites, but lost the team challenge in the end.
The team members were:
43 Michael Costello (27) from Palm Springs, CA
43 Gretchen Jones (28) from Portland, OR
43 Christopher Collins (30) from San Francisco, CA
43 Andy South (23) from Wainae, HI
43 Ivy Higa (30) from New York, NY
43 A.J. Thouvenot (26) St. Charles, MO
The challenge with which the team was confronted was to design a cohesive six piece collection for Fall 2010. They were given four concepts and five textiles from which they had to chose one each to base their collection on. They had to accomplish the challenge with a budget of 1000$ in a little bit more than 1 day which put them under a lot of time pressure and triggered a chaotic way of working when the Runway day came. Both teams were in the same working room but were separated from each other. The team members themselves had their own workspaces (worktables, sowing machines).
a) The answers of our team focused on the confident issue of the losing team(camel). The team was made of over confident competitors. One person took the lead and manipulated every other teammember.
b) Our teammembers reflected every mimic in different ways. The impressions of Gretchen and Michael C were the only things we agreed on in “question b”. Some of our teammembers reflected individualism as terrified or sensitivity.
c) All of our groupmembers clearly defined the goals of the competitors and agreed on that the both of the teams tried to design a 6 piece creative collection to win this stage of the competetion.
d) Most of our team agreed that they were all motivated equally to win the competition but one of our groupmembers came up with the idea that there could be extra pressure on the competitors to get the immunity for the next stage or not to be the one going home. This pressure could lead to extra motivation on the competitors or some sort of panic.
a) There are different perspectives in our group towards this question. The first opinion is they all forced to work together but sometimes their ideas collapse. The other opinion is that the task which they have to do as a group makes them work together and help each other. One of our groupmembers answered the question by presenting Myers-Briggs type indicator which added a different point of view towards this question among our group.
b) We all agreed on that the commonalities make things easier for the team members to work together in peace. On the other hand, differences create so much conflict and they do not try to understand each other. As a result, the influence of commonalities and differences changes from white to black.
c) There were so many different opinions about this question in our group. One of our groupmembers told that the communication between the competitors was very respectful and they hesitated to step on any toes. The other group member observed that they were not respecting each others personal space and they used aggressive tone while talking to each other. The only thing we agreed was that they all worked as a team.
d) Some of our groupmembers took the dominant leadership as a strength and some of ours took it as a weakness. We agreed on that the team formed a group and worked as one. And also one of the biggest weakness was their confidence. All of our groupmembers agreed on that.
Our team members mostly used the same evidence to form their initial impressions of the group, its members and the dynamics. The evidence was build up of what we saw and analyzed in the show. We used comments people made towards other group members in the show. Furthermore we looked at the way the participants interacted with and how they treated each other using mostly orally and verbal communication but also non-verbal communication such as body language, gesture and facial expressions.
From what we observed we did not detect any obvious evidence of either prejudice or discrimination. The group consists of six people who are all judged on their performance rather than their ethnicity or sexuality, and even though this group had different racial backgrounds and sexual preferences there were no comments made referring to this fact. We could also tell from the observation that every member of the group felt at ease and dared to speak his or her mind in the brainstorm session.
We did notice that one of the group members, named Michael C., was kind of the underdog of the group and was treated differently (for example his ideas were not really taken in by the group during the brainstorming), but the reasons the other group members gave for this treatment was his lack of good designing talent rather than that he was stereotyped or discriminated against.
The host of the show Heidi Klum was very neutral and made no comments whatsoever that showed discrimination or the use of stereotypes, just like the other members of the jury. They were all really professional. I think that in this show there were not actual signs of prejudice, discrimination or stereotyping because it is about designing and fashion and the group members were actually judged on their talent instead of their backgrounds.
One of the team's strengths was their confidence. Their confidence was expressed through different gestures, comments and the confident way those comments were said. Besides the group’s confidence and the motivated attitude that evolved from it, was their unity showing up after they were declared the losers, which was reflected in their agreement on not „throwing one of them under the bus“. Unfortunately this unity was also based on the collective mistrust/discontent with Michael C's work, making him the scapegoat and welding the other five members together, which was clearly shown when they had to face the judges and identify the weakest link.
Even though the confidence was on one hand a strength on the other hand it also presents a weakness since the „over“-confidence made the team blind towards the flaws in the collection.
Another weakness was the group's faltering resistance to Gretchen's authority which led to inequality concerning the different team members contributions and resolving from that frustration and partially disturbed communication. Best evidence of that weakness is the in cohesive collection the team presented to the judges.
In our opinion the group’s biggest problem was their overconfidence. These individuals were all so certain of their victory that it actually held them back in their performance. We derived this conclusion from our observation. For example the first thing the group leader Gretchen said in their brainstorm meeting was: “Okay guys we are a team of super designers and I know we got this (…) we’re going to win this challenge!”. Normally this would be seen as a motivating sentence and it can also be seen as a positive vibe that is created in the group. But as the show continued we observed that the group members performed less with this mantra in their minds. They were less critical when observing their own designs and they were less stressed when creating their clothing. You could see that whilst they were working they did everything very calm and slow, so this can mean that they didn’t feel any stress or pressure from this challenge. In the end they actually lost the challenge because their collection was said to be too boring and that it didn’t really show what the designers were capable of. So the overconfidence undermined the capability of this group.
If we had to improve the performance of this group we would suggest several strategies:
1. Try to get the group members more motivated to perform to their fullest capacity by giving them extra challenges within their final challenge.
2. Give the group a counseling beforehand about the task at head and teach them how to fulfill it successfully.
3. Let the group take a look at their own designs after they’ve been made and let every group member objectively judge his or her own and one other person’s design.
4. Give the group less time to accomplish the goal so there is more pressure on the job.
5. Plan another meeting after the creation of the collection to talk about what all the group members think about the final product and to look at what could’ve been done differently.
We all think that the best strategy to fight the overconfidence in the group is point 3, to let the group criticize and judge their own and other’s designs from an objective point of view. This would be done by first letting all the group members draw and create their designs on paper. After this they have to present their design to the other members of the group so they have a chance to explain where they’re going at with their design. When everyone has shown his or her design they have to exchange their designs amongst the group so in the end every designer has seen and judged every design. The criticizing has to be done individually and in the mind, notes can be made with pencil. After everyone has seen all the designs the group members have to look at their own designs again and analyze them as if they were not theirs. So with all this information and different points of view from the other designs taken in, the designers may look at their own designs differently. At the end of the criticizing and analyzing session every designer gets feedback and comments on their own design and they can improve them.
We think this strategy works really well because the designers are forced to really look objectively at their own designs and can improve them where necessary so they still use their fullest capacity. Second, this may diminish their overconfidence cause they have to critically analyze their own work and they see the flaws that they normally wouldn’t see when just designing and creating by themselves.