Students Participate in a Creative Collaboration Workshop “How We Work” Session Teaches Hands-on Techniques to Promote Teamwork

by Shruti A. July 23, 2020

Anh Dang, the product design lead at AI.Reverie, led a workshop for our first-and-second-year students to foster team building. Highlights included creating a framework for understanding group development, engaging in exercises to improve team communication, and learning tips for collaboration and conflict resolution.

Collaborating in teams helped student prototype successfully.

Anh taught us the importance of team dynamics by instructing us in the popular marshmallow challenge. We were divided into two teams for this activity in design thinking. Each team was asked to build the tallest free-standing structure possible within 18 minutes using spaghetti sticks, with a marshmallow on the top.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African Proverb

To understand team dynamics, Anh emphasized the four different stages of group development:

  • Forming—The initial stage is characterized by uncertainty and confusion, as well as by eagerness, when team members get to know each other, establishing rules, roles, and responsibilities. To facilitate this stage, team members should take personality tests to better understand themselves and one another.
  • Storming—The second stage of group development is categorized by tension and hostility, as well as by retaliation, when team members want to set clear priorities and standards, as well as provide support. To accelerate this stage, team members should use the A3 Problem Solving Framework to be on the same page with the rest of the team.
  • Norming—The third stage of group progress is characterized by trust and consensus, as well as by cooperation, when teammates provide learning opportunities and give feedback. To assist this step, team members should conduct a retrospective exercise to reflect on their last team activity and understand what went well and what could be improved.
  • Performing—The last stage of team advancement is characterized by openness and flexibility, as well as success. Teams should celebrate small and big successes and share lessons learned, as well as spend some time evaluating performance metrics to further improve.

In summary, open communications, persistent collaboration, meaningful conflict resolution, and consistent celebration can help to build great teams and great products. Using some of the tools learned in the workshop, we attempted the marshmallow challenge a second time, with greater success.

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