An argument for collective impact (while we’re all working solo)

It's easy to feel isolated right now while most of us are working from home. But it's more than just difficult mentally, it can actually reduce team impact. Front's Head of Creative David Stinnette explains why.

David Stinnette, Head of Design at Front
28 August 20204 Min Read

It's easy to feel isolated right now while most of us are working from home. But it's more than just difficult mentally, it can actually reduce team impact. Front's Head of Creative David Stinnette explains why.

When we talk about impact, more times than not it’s from a purely personal perspective.

“I had an outsized impact on that project.”

“My mom has had a huge impact on how I raise my kids.”

“What’s the impact you want to have in Q3?”

"I want a new job where I can have a bigger impact.”

And while personal impact is important, it’s a narrow view and misses the bigger picture — without others, our impact is limited, and I’d argue much less satisfying.

Remember group projects in school? The worst, right? Why? Because inevitably some members of the group would contribute more to the project than others. They had more impact on the project’s success. But if you were to ask if they were happy with how the project went, they’d probably say “no.” Why? They had more impact, right? 

Yes, but the project would have been much stronger had everyone meaningfully contributed. 

Making more impact together

A lot of people still have that “bad group project” feeling as working adults. I think it’s because companies are making a good faith effort to fairly distribute the work without recognizing that the impact comes from team cohesion.

The satisfaction of a job well done is amplified when we do it together — when we achieve something greater than any one of us could have done alone. The feeling of contributing to a larger goal — whether it’s closing that big customer, or shipping that amazing new feature, or even raising our children — is where we get the most energy, not because of our individual impact, but because of what we accomplished together. It’s our collective impact as families, communities, and teams that makes meaningful change.

It’s this collective impact that has been my personal focus for a number of years within my own career. My impact at work is often not through myself, but through the design team. What is the impact we’re having as a team? Are we having a positive impact on each other’s growth and happiness? Are we making an impact cross-functionally with engineering and marketing? How are we as a design team contributing to our business goals? What are the opportunities for us to have more impact as individuals and as a team? It’s this macro view that helps identify areas where we can increase our impact — places where we can level up and improve as a team.

Making more impact together — while alone

Fast forward and 2020 has introduced a new challenge: How do we continue to have collective impact when we’re forced to be alone? How do we move forward when everything feels like it’s standing still? How can we feel a sense of shared progress and impact when we can’t share the same space? 

Being isolated from our co-workers has made many of us focus on our individual productivity, and now a few months in to shelter-in-place we’re burning out. We’re realizing that feeling less connected to others and sharing in the challenges and victories is less satisfying. We miss the camaraderie, the feeling of a shared challenge, and the energy that comes with solving a problem together. We need others to feel impactful, not just productive.

At Front we celebrate the wins and learnings of individuals and teams each week during our company all-hands. We do weekly updates on how we’re progressing on our company goals and Objectives & Key Results. We have Employee Resource Groups to bring Fronteers together to have impact outside of our day jobs, but we can always do more to bring back that feeling of collective impact.

In an effort to further explore this idea of impact and how we can make more of it as a team, Front put on an event earlier this month. It was the official unveiling of a cross-functional design project my team has been working on for the past 8 months or so. It’s the highest-impact project we’ve done since I started at Front. I hope you’ll check out the recording to see what we made.

But I’m still curious: What have you done to bring your teams together in this time when most of us are farther apart than ever? To help individuals feel connected to the impact they’re having on their teams, customers, and on the business? Let’s help each other out because together we can have a greater impact than we can alone.

Written by David Stinnette
Last Updated: 31 July 2020

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