Picked up from the emaillist, started with a request by Jerry Nagel; which generated an awesome list of ideas, resources and stories - worth reading!
I do again have a request. Here is the situation. Students in a nearby university will be organized into team of four to work together on a project for the next 3 months. This ‘studio’ experience is part of their class work requirement and happens every year. While they know each other, they have never worked together as a team and most have never worked in any team situation. They will be under a great deal of pressure during their time as a team to complete a project in a highly competitive atmosphere. The idea is to replicate what they will experience in the work world once they graduate, i.e. the intensity of working in teams, meeting deadlines and being highly creative. As you might imagine, in the past it was not uncommon for these student teams to self-destruct.
I have been asked to spend a day with the students hosting team building activities/exercises to help them develop some skills to work better as teams and to avoid potential destructive elements that can emerge. I have ideas for activities from the Gamestorming book and the Systems Thinking Playbook. I am wondering if any of you have suggestions for activities you have used with success either form these books or other sources or your own creativity. Any ideas/suggestions you might offer will be most appreciated.
Best wishes to all of us for a peaceful, joyful and safe 2012.
I've used an appreciative inquiry process very successfully to build teams in this setting. Having individuals tap into their best experience and the underlying values creates a very strong foundation. Five Easy Pieces from the Playbook works very well to introduce the principles of systems.
We just worked with a group in a similar situation… and decided the way in was to establish shared intention/vision and values that could guide action, reflection, and feedback.
We first worked individually and in pairs—with the aim of developing an ‘art installation’ that conveyed personal vision. Individuals started by selecting from various artifacts and images from CCL Visual Explorer. They shared their intuitive connection to these with a partner, and then spent time individually creating their ‘work of art vision’. They shared their personal vision with the entire group during a Gallery Walk. This flowed into a whole group dialogue about the emerging shared vision and the creative tension that they’d hold on a d2d basis.
Next we used the ICA consensus-building method to articulate shared values. I imagine you’re familiar with this process, and its ability to create rich dialogue and quickly derive a framework (in this case a set of shared values) that can be embedded in a feedback process.
Overall, the process supported vulnerability and openness, being seen, acting with courage, meaning making, interdependence, commitment.... and of course it connected people with their creativity and lightness in a ‘pressure’ environment.
If you’re interested in detail about any of the above, let me know!
I am intrigued by the notions raised in this discussion and I love stories, so I would like to share one too.
Teaching in a school of environmental planning, I have always introduced group work exercises as crucial to understanding how to work together –as will be required in the real world – rather than focus on the individually earned grade.
Without fail, students arrive in class and hate the idea. Their previous experiences with group work has almost always been negative. My practice however, has been to build in the kind of supports that Rosa describes and the work produced by the groups is so vastly superior to anything individuals alone could produce that the students – with the learning supports for group success in place – actually “get” what it means to cooperate and share rather than compete. The students leave the class with improved social and support connections with each other (we are a small school and the students do bump up against each other in different classes.) AND more importantly – a shift in their thinking about how the world can operate. Uniformly, students find the experiences they gather in these classes are the ones that stick.
Of course, I have had 17 kinds of blue fits when they finally present their results. I have had photos of students dangling over an abyss taking photographs of the environmental damage being done by the sale of water licenses to private enterprise, urban guerilla gardening exploits done under the cover of darkness (and the results of which still show up every spring) and a myriad of other things that I am sure the Dean would expel me for if he knew. What they were choosing to learn about, when given the freedom of choice, is far too radical and political for my institution.
My most notable memory of group success though is the class that worked en masse with a small, three-valley wide community (3 small communities and outlying ranches, farms and small holdings.) The valley group was struggling with coming to terms with each other in the process of forming a cooperative and the class, now in supported and functioning groups self selected by interest, under a variety of “rural planning “ exercise including took consultations, research, design and other tasks and within the semester had helped the group complete : the non-profit application, (including the required things such constitution, board and bylaws, etc.), a logo, a name and a slew of beautifully designed marketing and promotion materials, a design for a greenhouse and daycare facility (so kids could play while parents worked in food production activities connected to the greenhouse) and other neat products. The communities hosted the students twice, including billeted sleepover, visits to straw bale buildings and underground pantries, amazing community feasts and dances, and door prizes of things like strings of garlic, and boxes of potatoes – (with the prize draws “fixed” so the students won). It was a most amazing thing of beauty and two of the toughest students I have ever had – who thought I was a complete flake and I was sure were going to turn me in, each separately told me after that it was the best class of their entire student life.
That cooperative is still working today and has expanded to include hosting learning workshops of interest, engaging students in other classes as partners, improved local income sources (e.g. attending a farmers market weekly in a tourist town 100 kms away) and a regional initiative to connect farmers and food producers across the north. I think the community members, in their effort to ensure the students had a good experience, found a way to put aside their differences and find a higher task with each other and the students felt supported, valued and appreciated and the learning by doing was invaluable..
So, it can be done. Education truly is “not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” (W.B. Yeats)
Thank you to all on this list for the beacons of hope….
I’d also warn them to look out for the ‘arena of delights’, in which they may notice fragments of resources, things going well, evidence of collaboration, small signs of success, the glimpse of useful possibilities.
And perhaps add some resilience work – notice in challenging times when we are feeling we can cope a bit, where there are glimmers of hope or light, and work with those.
Paul Z Jackson