Saturday, November 12, 2016

Working Alone Versus Working in A Team

I have worked in a creative environment for more than 15 years whereby teaching young people in creative ICT skills while also developing content for graphic and web design curriculum at NairoBits Trust. Generally, I have worked as the lead of the training department and on the other side since 2011, I have been working on my social enterprise called Wilsen Initiative (Wi).

The experience has been a good balance of working alone versus working in a team which has introduced me to different working styles and ethics in meeting the deadlines and set goals. Talking about graphic design, anything that is visual has many interpretation and as a visual creative designer, I have witnessed great ideas trapped into the argument of which direction to take because everyone preferred their ideas to be developed further and as a result delays were experienced and some individuals dropped from further engagement.

 I believe by default everyone is a designer, but there are great designers who have learned the cornerstone of design through formal education or self learning with a great track record of portfolios. The best part is that nobody as the monopoly of learning anything. So start today by mapping your learning journey in a team or as an individual.

 Do you prefer working a lone or working in a team?

 Having worked in both scenarios, the experience is great only if you work in a team that works towards a shared goal and driven by the same values, on the other hand working alone calls for extra effort beyond the call of duty, you have to master your learning patterns and be exposed to many learning experiences and ways of doing things that will enable you to handle the basic process without compromise. Below, I would like to share my experience working in a team and as an individual, as a Training Coordinator, Visual Communication Designer and Social Entrepreneur.

 Experience working alone; 


  1. You are able to define your speed based on the assignment.
  2. You are able to structure your working style & pattern (morning person or evening person).
  3. No one to blame for the missed deadline.
  4. Direct contact with the client.
  5. Power of decision making.
  6. Borderless control while working beyond the call of duty.
  7.  Rapid ideation and implementation process. 

  1. Must be proficient in the subject matter to handle the project in 360 degrees.
  2. Might fall into procrastination.
  3. Fatigue might creep in if you don't know how to manage yourself and prospective assignments.
  4. Might spread too thin in almost everything.
  5. Pipeline ideas focusing on one direction.
  6. Full responsibility especially when clients don't pay for service offered. 
 Experience working in a team


  1. Diverse skills from different individuals.
  2. Division of labor and shared risks.
  3. Specialization on certain areas that yield accountability.
  4. Timely delivery where a compatible team works on a big project beyond one area of expertise.
  5.  Burnout can be maintained through a balanced work and social life, can be achieved through structured delegation.
  6. Wide ideation process that yields many options for implementation. 

  1. Power of decision making is left to the team or must be clearly be defined.
  2. Lack of meeting the deadline if one individual fall out of the team without proper notice.
  3.  Different working style and patterns (morning people versus evening people) which might lead to conflict or task not been completed.
  4. The blame game is the order of the day when a target or deadline is missed.
  5. Must have a shared value system, goals, scope of work clearly defined. 6. People tend to only do what they are assigned. 
  6. A project might fall into the trap of the BOSS syndrome. 

 Generally, whichever ways you prefer, you will encounter both scenarios working alone or in teams. Some people write in their CV's that they can work well with minimum supervision while others write that they work well in a team to achieve a collective achievement, what about you?

To work effectively and efficiently both as individuals or in teams, below are 10 points as suggested from my work diary; 

  1. If you are doing a collaborative project where everyone need to give their opinions make sure the feedback loop is well managed with the influence of titles or positions in the organization.
  2. Design the project plan, you can't go wrong with a Gantt chart.
  3. Maintain a To Do list that you will follow 4. Reward yourself or team for project successfully finished and learn from those that didn't make it within the deadline. 
  4. Treat all the members of the team with the same standard when they fail or succeed. No biases, biases breaks a great team. 6. Lifelong learning is a must as a team or as a person. 
  5. The team leader should be a great listen, communicator and coach to determine the next phase. Leading self is the most challenging too!
  6. Professionalism is paramount working either in teams or as an individual.
  7. Define clear roles for everyone, not forgetting yourself when working solo.
  8. 10. Break the big tasks into manageable activities assigned to individuals.

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