We've heard the saying before, the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Nowhere is this more applicable than in collaborative design and development. Paving the way are open source projects, inter-university efforts and corporate teams. Collaborative design is the heart of Web 2.0, setting up an infrastructure and letting other groups develop tools for your creation. The driving force of social design is the incredible search speed of multiple points of view. Take for example the problem of target tracking. Multiple observers with varied location provide improved performance over similar single sensor systems.
When it comes to initial design, additional objective views increase the likelihood and speed of determining the simplest and most effective solution framework. The shared perspectives provide greater insight than artificially segmented hierarchical methods in discovering homologous aspects of a problem. Consider the optimal data flow problem for wireless communication. There is an incredible efficiency difference between some modern band restricted methods vs. the incredible efficiency of open spectrum WiFi packet based communication. The optimal (or best) design will be accepted by a consensus of recognized field experts.
Implementation can be segmented on a experienced weighted basis, with different subgroups bidding on time required for tasks. This gives senior designers first choice on what development areas they wish to focus on. Also their added knowledge allows for recognizing any subsystems that require more or less attention.
The challenges to putting together effective large scale teams include several technical and social limitations. It takes resources to even form a large team. Open source projects have made headway due to aggregating volunteers. A major source of disruption is communication between team members. As the project develops small problems or limitations can have unexpected consequences to other system components. Timely information must be openly shared by all subgroups. Modern social media tools are potential frameworks where teams can have documented, near real time interaction on a continuous basis. Cisco is making efforts to be the goto corporation (and model) for large scale projection communication frameworks.