Collaboration System

Deep Work is using an internal process to improve quality control with projects, while allowing new designers to learn on real projects with as little friction as possible.
For each client project, you are either the Expert (main responsibility and lead) or a Collaborator. The Collaborator can be on a lower level than the Expert or wants to be observed and graded before becoming an Expert. The aim for Experts as well as Collaborators is to stay in Csikszentmihalyi's flow state:
Creative Directors choose a set of vetted Experts who already worked on a project with Deep Work before and have been approved. It's important that they worked on at least one Deep Work project because our clients have a very specific quality/speed expectation and our process has a few peculiarities.


New to Deep Work? Before working with a buddy, make sure you are signed up as a Collaborator.
Experts, consider the following when splitting the work and payment with a Collaborator:
  • The recruitment bonus will be issued in accordance with the amount of work you delegate. The more you delegate, the higher will be your bonus.
  • Some tasks will require your full attention (like workshops) where you will need to be present. Discuss with your Collaborator how to split the payment for those tasks.
  • Other tasks are easy to fully delegate, please make sure you have enough time to fix the errors in case the result is not acceptable.
  • You will agree on a split before the project starts and will not be able to change it afterward. Make sure you review your Collaborator's previous work and fully trust them.

Choosing the right collaborator

Whether you are an Expert on a project and you want a Collaborator to support you or if you are community member planning to form a team around a small project, we highly recommend reviewing them with due diligence. Have a conversation with the candidates upfront to make the best choice. Here are a few things we consider:
  • Review their past work. Does it look credible? Ask them what their contribution was to the project.
  • Are they doing any other projects simultaneously? Do they have a full time job and will do different projects on the same day? If so, the quality of their work will be lower.
  • Check their feedback document in the Google Drive. You might have to browse through alternative Discord names if they changed theirs.
  • Are there any other individuals who worked with them in the past? Ask them how happy they were.
  • How are they sleeping? This might sound unusual but people with unstable sleep patterns tend to be less emotionally balanced.

How to split the payment

When mentoring a collaborator you will usually receive an extra bonus for splitting your work and payment. Deciding on the exact split can be challenging and a normal part of any collaboration.
In the beginning you are making assumptions on how well the other person would perform and how much you think they can handle. Refer to the previous paragraph for details.
The split of payment is essentially your stake (in some sense to yourself) that this assumption will be correct. In many cases you will be slightly off - sometimes more, sometimes less. But the only way to find out for sure is by actually going through the experience with the other person. You'll take the time to understand what you already know and find ways to express it well. At the end of the project, the split stays the same (unless there's a heavy disagreement).
If your estimation of the other person's skills was off, you're paying for the learning experience. If the estimation was correct and the expression of your thoughts succinct, you're "rewarded" with doing less work.
In our project based work, each time is an opportunity for you to sharpen your observation in estimating other people's skills. Since there is no perfect way, feel free to ask others for advice or discuss in Discord if you're unsure.

Process for Collaborators

A client Hypersprint gets announced in a new Discord channel.
Creative Directors choose a set of Experts to work on the project, who they believe have the best fit. They will then post the scope of the project, dates and details.
As a Collaborator, you can apply to help through a Typeform, which pings the Expert on the project.
During the application you choose the tasks you believe you can take on. Honest and truthful self-assessment is crucial, over-estimation of skill may lead to not being chosen again.
Experts and Creative Directors review applications in Discord and confirm one Collaborator by inviting them to the project intro call.
In case you have been invited, you have a quick chat about how to split tasks between you and your Expert. Both go through the Hypersprint process, doing the work they want to focus on.
After the final presentation and before the retrospective, Experts give their Collaborators feedback to either attest to their capabilities or communicate why the Collaborator did not reach the Experts expectation and how they can improve. Everyone can add the experience to their portfolio document. You can see all portfolio documents here.

Process for Experts

A client Hypersprint gets announced in the #confirmed-projects channel. Experts can express interest to work on the project considering their availability.
Creative Directors select a set of Experts to work on the project, who they believe have the best fit. They will then post the scope of the project, dates and details in a separate project channel (see screenshots above).
In case Creative Directors haven't selected Collaborators for the project yet, they are prompted to sign up for collaboration through a Typeform. It will post a message to the channel and ping the lead Expert:
As an Expert, you decide who to work with from the list of applications and can get in touch with them directly to discuss how to split tasks.
Choose someone you feel comfortable with working and get in touch with them latest the day before the project onboarding. Make sure to invite them to all relevant meetings.
As you work with them on the project, you can observe how well they are executing on their promise and delegate some of your work to them. Only delegate what you feel they are capable of doing themselves. If they don't do good enough work, you will have to carry the responsibility for the outcome and may have to re-do it.
During the sprint, make sure that the Collaborator does at least the work they promise at the desired quality level. It's your task to evaluate the quality of their work and make sure they receive the level they have applied for. If they overpromise and underdeliver, it's your responsibility to make sure the project completes successfully. Give them honest feedback depending on their performance, to make sure they can improve next time.
After the final presentation and before the retrospective, Experts give their Collaborators feedback to either approve them for their level or communicate how the Collaborator did not reach the Experts expectation. Everyone can add the experience to their portfolio document. You can see all portfolio documents here.

Key principles

  • The working relationship should reduce the amount of working time for the Expert.
  • The working relationship should provide the Collaborator with constructive feedback.
  • Only one Collaborator can pair up with an Expert.
  • When giving feedback, honesty is important. Especially if feels uncomfortable.


Payment Split Issues

Coordinating WIP (work in progress)

When creating an expert <> collaborator payment split, this is locked for the project as it is up to the expert to take responsibility for the work they are delegating and be confident in the collaborator to do the work.
While working with a collaborator, the project "to do" list might become long, and coordinating work via chat can quickly become overwhelming. Some important details might fall through the cracks.
There may be extreme issues, and these are the recommended solutions:
You can pick a simple tool for keeping track of tasks and WIP (work in progress). Choose a tool that has checklists and can show the status of work - like a simple kanban (To Do; In Progress; Done).
1) Collaborator turns out not to have the required skills to complete the task:
Some ideas for tools: Trello/Airtable/Asana/ (it can be as simple as a 3-column excel sheet).
  • Its the responsibility of the expert to make sure the collaborator has the skills before work commences. Therefore, the expert needs to complete the tasks. No adjustment to payment calculator.
Example: When preparing User Research reports, Pitch (presentation tool) has a functionality to add status to every slide (To do; In Progress; Done). This allows the expert and collaborator to coordinate on the progress of the report slides and focus spots in the report that need extra attention while still having the big picture of what else needs to be done.
2) The collaborator doesn't show up to complete a task:
  • The payment calculator remains the same, to make sure you retain the mentoring bonus.
  • You can privately negotiate a new payment split with the collaborator for when submitting payments.
  • If the collaborator disagrees with what you propose, and still submits a payment request for a disputed amount, you can dispute their payment via the discord channel #payments. If not resolved in discussion, you can raise a governance vote to block the payment.