On 27th of January, Alison Coward, the founder of Bracket was our guest speaker for the Conducting Collaborative Creativity class. She is such a friendly person! It was great listening to her and it made me think about and reflect on my group in Design-Thinking class that I am working with now. In this blog, I will be writing about her tips on collaboration and teamwork, and my reflections on them. Alison had many great ideas, but for the sake of the length of this blog, I will be focusing on 3 of her tips:
1) It all starts with the individual. This is a very important point to start with because sometimes we focus so much on team collaboration that we forget about the individual, which is actually what teams are made of. It is important to know the skills, strengths and weaknesses of each individual in the group, so that the team can assign roles accordingly. As every human being is different, individuals in the team will be different from each other. According to the Belbin Test, devised by Meredith Belbin, there are 9 team roles, which are: plant, resource-investigator, co-ordinator, shaper, monitor-evaluator, team worker, implementer, completer-finisher, and specialist. Even though each individual has a different way of contributing to the work, they will all work towards a common goal. For our team in Design-Thinking class, we discussed what strengths we had from the start. Even though we were all deciding together and doing work together, we had assigned roles to each teammate. In our team, in terms of main roles, Lulu is the product designer, Nora is the designer in terms of stand, poster, and film editing, Luka is the director and videographer of adverts and I am in charge of marketing. But of course we all collaborate in many areas including t-shirts printing, business cards, social media, manufacturing of our product, etc.
2) Trust and communication are key. According to Alison (Coward, 2015), every problem that arises between teammates comes down to these two factors. For humans, being social animals, connection is very important, which is why it helps if the team gets to know each other outside of the work environment. In these kind of environments, we learn about similarities with other teammates, which creates a bond between individuals leading to building trust. Another point was that, in terms of communication, groups should not try to avoid conflict and deal with problems openly and effectively (Coward, 2015). This is because, different perspectives will eventually lead to an improved or a new idea. As Alice also points out “real innovation emerges from the mixed viewpoints that can only come from a diverse, specialized and talented team” (Coward, 2015, p.30). It is also crucial to make sure that these conflicts are not personal, they are about ideas. As Univeau, we are all strong characters so we discuss ideas and at times conflict arises. Even though at times arguments arise and some discussions may feel personal, being good friends outside class, helps us solve the problems easily.
3) Be careful to divergent and convergent thinking and when they should be used. When brainstorming ideas, which fits into divergent thinking mode, it is important to let ideas loose. At this stage quantity is more important, since you are finding new possibilities and solutions. So, more ideas the better! However, when making decisions it is crucial to be in the convergent thinking mode, because in this case you want quality and narrow down ideas. While doing these activities, it is critical not to forget that some individuals might be less willing to share ideas as confidently as others. Therefore, Alison (Coward, 2015) suggests that groups give individuals some time to do individual thinking and write ideas down, so that the person who is louder and sounds more convincing does not dominate the decision-making process. In our group, we have been using these techniques and at times, it has been difficult to make decisions. However, this has been because of another reason: we had so many different ideas and we were all confidently speaking about them, so it was hard to decide on the final decision. I assume this took place also due to making decisions all together even though we had assigned roles. Recently, we have seen some improvement in this area by for some of the decisions, letting the person who has more knowledge and experience decide and by trusting each other more.
If you’d like to learn more about teamwork and collaboration I strongly recommend reading Alison’s book, Great Teams. You can also watch her inspirational talk, which she gave in the conference ‘Mind the Product’.
It was great to learn more about collaboration and teamwork from Alison, hopefully will see her again sometime in the future!
Coward, A. (2015) Great Teams. Bracket Ltd, London.