The must experience: teamwork

Last week we had our first experience as a team delivering a project to a client, and I am proud to say that we came trough this experience having been changed by the museum and in some aspects growing as a team, today I want to address what I feel was one of the most important things I learnt through this experience, the value of communication in teamwork.

In my personal work experience, working in teams was a “split-task” experience, every member of the group got a task and was responsable to see it trough completion, while someone was orchestrating the whole message and coherence of the work. This way of work is time efficient, but sadly loses a lot of richness that could come through collaboration, and it does not really work when you have a flat group structure, without hierarchies, where everyone is a peer, which is our case.
So we ended falling down somewhere between a collaborative effort and a split-task way of working, where sometimes miscommunication arose, but some other times we had collective eureka moments, finding really interesting insights by sharing our experience. This got me thinking on how we can improve our communication in order to be a stronger team and I have two interesting reflections.
The first one is based on our own experience during the workshop, one of the things that got us trough the moments where we got stuck was serious games, which where particularly helpful for decision making, helping us detach ourselves a little of the work we were doing, and looking at it again with fresher eyes. This made me realize of the importance to remember to have fun with the work we are doing, even though we are working for real clients, keeping things light helps us to have a broader perspective in the issue and to be able to take more risks.
The second one comes from listening yesterday to Patricia Austin from Central Saint Martin College, talking about the complexity of working in multidisciplinary teams and what things will make it easier, the first thing that caught my attention was her philosophy of doing everything together, being on site together, ideating together, testing together, etc, since this allows for discussions to take place in front of the evidence, eliminating a lot of the polluting that comes from recalling. When we are on site, we try to absorb the most information we can, and this usually means splitting up and covering the most of the site that we can, sadly by doing this we miss the opportunity to discuss evidence in the exact moment is happening and agree on an interpretation.
Another thing that struck me of her talk was how important was to talk about the menial things, like how do you prefer to work, are you a night owl or an early riser? Do you prefer to work alone or have some company? This could help us to get an idea of the workflow of the team. Also, she highlighted the importance of talking about the skills of every person and, I would add, about the things they want to learn or improve, which things you are confortable doing and which you want to get more confortable with. This two things are really important for us to begin having a picture of who the other members of the team are and how we can work together.
Lastly, but not less important, Patricia highlighted the importance of keeping your word, if there are some preliminary accords made you must keep to them, if there is an appointed time to meet, you must keep to it, if you said you will make something, you must do it. This keeping your word will help to build trust among the team, and that is central for succeeding in any project. I must be honest and said that I am really bad at keeping my word, specially when it comes to appointed times, but after yesterday I realized how important this is for teamwork and will surely work to improve it.
These are just some thoughts on the teamwork experience, I am sure that throughout this year we will learn a lot more on this and grow as team players.
Image by: Blake Danger Bently on Flickr