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Team Building with the Sherwins

An Intro

In this one week fun filled course we learned about the best tools and techniques that can be used for collaboration between team members. We learned and practiced all of these tools by doing quick and short projects with different people from our class. One of the main objectives of our teachers was to ensure that each one of us had the chance to work with each and every other student in the class.

David and Mary

Our Teachers

David Sherwin and Mary Sherwin were our teachers for the week. Also known in our school popularly as the Sherwins, they were the most witty and energetic teachers we got till date. David was the Interactive Design Director at Frog and is currently the co-founder of Ask The Sherwins along with his wife Mary Sherwin who has been working as a freelance writer, editor and speaking coach. Together, they were able to bring over their collective gyan from the experience they have had by working with a prolific number of teams and projects with companies around the world.
More about them: David Sherwin, Mary Sherwin.

Learnings

The Sherwins taught us a lot on effective team building and how talented people can work together in a closed space without pulling each other’s hair ;) Each day they begin the class with an icebreaker challenge, which makes sure that the students get to be comfortable with each other since this was the first week of our class, many of us didn’t know each other. These exercises were anything from building towers with marshmallows to predicting zombie apocalypses.

We learned something new each day and were given an opportunity to apply that learning immediately by working in a team. Here, I will summarise some of the most important topics they covered and which I feel are very valuable for me as well as for others who will be working in stressful team environments.

  1. Form->Norm->Storm->Perform:

    form

    This model presents a basic overview of how a team should work. Forming a team of people with the required expertise level, followed by setting norms for working with each other. These can be as simple as the working times of different people, medium used for communication (email/whatsapp,etc), etc. Perform involves doing tasks and activities related to the project and Storm usually consists of criticism, conflict or confrontation that arises between members in a team. This model also allows the members to revisit their norms that they originally set forth and modify them to create a better team consciousness. A reference link: Team Dynamics.
  2. Bias and Assumptions: In the words of the Sherwins, Bias is “an inclination of temperament or outlook... a tendency...a personal judgment...an attitude of mind that predisposes one to favor something” more broadly, bias is about the factors that come into play when you make a choice. These factors may include your culture, gender, geographics, etc. And because of these Biases that arise in our minds involuntarily, Assumptions are formed. Biases cannot be completely removed from our thoughts because it’s part of being human, but it helps in listing and identifying Biases and Assumptions while we are thinking of an idea that is intended to serve a large number of people. For example: a popular assumption that is out there today among designers or engineers are that people use QR codes. Nowadays, we see QR codes on almost every product in the shelf of a supermarket, but how many of us actually take the pain to scan it and learn more about it? This is an example of an assumption, the assumption that QR codes are an easy way for people to access information. If you wish to read more on this, check this page: QR codes.
  3. Retrospectives: Learning what went wrong and improving on it the next time is the basic way in which a team gets better. Retrospectives let you do that with a couple of tools. By doing this activity at the end of the day with the team, you get to know in depth about the things that worked well for the team and things which didn’t. Some of the tools that can be used for this are:
    1. Emotional Seismographs:

      form

      A simple graph having two extreme ends for mapping out the best and worst moments that happened in the day. Each team member fills this graph out and shares it with the rest of the team.
    2. What worked well? What didn’t work well? What can be improved? These are the three questions that each member in the team talks about with each other to help them know what can be improved for the next time and what can stay the same.
  4. Four player model:

    four player model

    In every team there are basically four roles that each of the members will be in. It is helpful to identify these roles while in a discussion in order to push forward in the right directions.The roles are:
    1. Mover: The person who is really excited in pushing their idea forward to the team and creates a direction.
    2. Follower: The person who follows the mover and is convinced that his/her idea is worth pursuing.
    3. Opposer: The person who sees drawbacks in the idea presented by the Mover and pushes for rectifications.
    4. Bystander: The person who is listening to the conversation between the team members having the three roles listed above and is working out the perspective.
  5. Timeboxing:

    timeboxing

    This is a really valuable tool that can be used for creating hundreds of ideas between team members in a short time span. Here, each of the members are given a fixed time to come up with as many ideas as possible, where quantity is the king over quality. The time can be anywhere between 5 minutes to 30 minutes. The team then goes over each of the ideas quickly. This tool is also pretty helpful in situations where you have very little flexibility for time.

The above topics are just a few of the things that was covered in the class by the Sherwins. We had a great time with them especially during the quirky icebreaker sessions everyday and also had the opportunity to work with every other person in the class as we were still getting comfortable with each other being the first week of school. At the end, we were exposed to a range of tools and techniques that can be used to avoid or tackle stressful team dynamics and maintain a healthy team presence which will surely come in handy for the following weeks.

Resources

Some links to the learning resources on this topic: Designer Bias, Cognitive Bias and a link to access the bi-weekly newsletters or ask for advice from the Sherwins: Advice. You can also check out some of the projects from our classes till date here.

This is just a short intro to my life at CIID, I will be publishing more posts on the different topics we learn as well as the projects we do through this blog. Furthermore, all the credits to the media content for this blog goes to the IDP class of 2017.



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