Collaborate Better Handbook

Raising Your Collaborative Intelligence

Now is the time

by Eli Woolery


During the past seven seasons of the Design Better Podcast, Aarron Walter and I —along with the rest of the world—have witnessed global crises ranging from a pandemic to war in eastern Europe. We’ve worked through our own challenges during this period, and have helped friends and family in times of need. Aarron took direct action to help out globally, leaving his full-time role at InVision toward the end of 2020 to work at Resolve to Save Lives.  

We’ve also seen the way people work evolve quickly over the past few years, most obviously in the shift for many to remote or hybrid work. During this period, Aarron and I have had the good fortune to speak to some of the brightest creative minds to help us and our audience understand how to navigate these challenging times. 

As work shifts from in-person interaction to more distributed and hybrid collaboration, it becomes increasingly important to understand how to collaborate effectively. This book will help you raise the collaborative intelligence of your teams, drawing from interviews with some of the most creative, prolific, and multidisciplinary leaders, authors, and makers in the world.

Aarron and I started this podcast to educate and inspire people in the world of product design, but over the years, as we’ve interviewed leaders and pioneers in disciplines ranging from astrophysics to comedy to fashion, we’ve realized that the collaborative toolkit that designers use can help every team. Correspondingly, we’ve discovered that design and product teams can learn from all kinds of disciplines.

In each chapter of this book, we’ll share relevant excerpts from our interviews as we explore the foundations we believe are critical to making your team—and you— more collaborative.

We’ll begin with collaborative leadership in Chapter 2, where Aarron discusses how effective leaders bring teams together to establish shared values and vision that help people take their own path toward success. He shares lessons learned from leaders like Julie Zhuo and Jason Mayden.

In Chapter 3, Aarron investigates what it takes to understand your colleagues. He looks at how Design Better Podcast guests like Benjamin Earl Evans, Jehad Affoneh, and Sara Seager have honed their skills at reading people, and the specific techniques they’ve developed that unlocked their collaborative potential.

Next, in Chapter 4, guests like Christian Madsbjerg, Brian Chesky, and Laura Martini help Aarron build a case for why understanding your customers will help assure that you’re running the race to success in the right direction.

In Chapter 5, I dive deeper into how mission, vision, and purpose can each be used as levers to raise your collaborative intelligence. Guests like Eileen Fisher and Chris Kemp offer examples of their own mission and vision, and Dan Pink speaks about the importance of purpose in work.

John Cleese, Irene Au, and David Kelley teach us about creativity, innovation, and divergent thinking in Chapter 6. They help us understand why creativity isn’t a solo act, and how to get in the proper mindset to access the right tools for creative collaboration. 

Finally, in Chapter 7, I share insights from Seth Godin, Katrina Alcorn, Sandy Fershee, and Marty Cagan about why building together—from low-fidelity prototypes to high-fidelity user tests—helps the whole team learn what matters most to users and customers, and ship the right experience to them with less wasted effort, in less time.

If you’re new to the Design Better Podcast, we hope this book will encourage you to listen to some of our favorite episodes. And if you’re a longtime fan, we hope that you’ll share this book with your colleagues to get them excited about the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest creative minds out there. 

Of course, this book wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the people who have shared their stories with us and with you. We have enormous gratitude for each of our guests, and we hope that by sharing their wisdom, we can inspire you to build great things together with your team. 

About the Authors

Eli Woolery
Senior Director of Design Education / InVision

Eli Woolery is the Senior Director of Design Education at InVision, and co-host of the Design Better Podcast. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he has worked with companies ranging from startups (his own and others) to Fortune 500 companies.

In addition to his background in product and industrial design, he has been a professional photographer and filmmaker. He teaches the senior capstone class Implementation to undergraduate Product Designers at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Twitter and Medium.

Aarron Walter
Author and co-host of the Design Better Podcast

Aarron Walter is the co-host of the Design Better Podcast, and author of Designing for Emotion. He was the Director of Product on the COVID Response team at Resolve to Save Lives, and prior to that, the VP of Design Education at InVision. He founded the UX practice at Mailchimp where he helped grow the product from a few thousand users to more than 10 million. He’s the author of a number of books, the latest of which is a second edition of Designing for Emotion. Aarron’s design guidance has helped the White House, the US Department of State, and dozens of major corporations, startups, and venture capital firms.

You can find Aarron on Twitter and LinkedIn.