Frederick Brooks is best known as the author of The Mythical Man-Month, a book on software project management first written in 1975 and still popular 35 years later. Brooks has a new collection of essays entitled The Design of Design that was just released this month. In his chapter on collaboration in design, Brooks notes
“Many hands make light work” — Often
But many hands make more work — Always
Collaboration may reduce the amount of work per person, but it will certainly increase the total amount of work to be done. In addition, collaboration is likely to reduce the quality of a design. Earlier in the same chapter Brooks says
Most great works have been made by one mind. The exceptions have been made by two minds.
He gives a long list of designers to support this claim: Homer, Bach, Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, Michelangelo, Watt, Edison, the Wright Brothers …
The great works Brooks alludes to may have been implemented by teams, but they were not designed by teams.
You can hear Brooks explain why he believes design work doesn’t partition well in his talk “Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design.” There’s a link to the audio in my blog post on Brooks and conceptual integrity.