Team coordination through externalised mental imagery

Petre, Marian (2004). Team coordination through externalised mental imagery. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 61(2) pp. 205–218.



Fundamental to the effective operation of a design team is the communication and coordination of design models: that the members of the team are all contributing to the same solution. Other work has shown that breakdowns in the accurate sharing of goals are a significant contributor to bugs, delays and design flaws. This paper discusses one mechanism by which teams unify their vision of a solution. It describes how the mental imagery used by a key team member in constructing an abstract solution to a design problem can be externalised and adopted by the rest of the team as a focal image. Examples drawn from in situ observations of actual design practice of a number of computer system design teams are offered. The examples illustrate how the images were introduced, how they were used to coordinate subsequent design discussions, hence how they evolved, and how short-hand references to them were incorporated into the team’s ‘jargon’.

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