Collaboration

Teamwork First-Aid Kit

Teamwork First-Aid Kit gathers tools that have proved to be useful in supporting diverse teams tackling ill-defined problems and building foundational elements for the successful teamwork. It is a small step toward educating game-changers who can make a team more than a sum of its parts. Undeniably, teamwork skills are among the most pivotal work-life skills that younger generation entering the workforce are expected to master.

Information asymmetry is the starting point in diverse teams

To solve ill-defined problems, we assemble teams made up of members who possess a wide range of knowledge, expertise, and understanding related to the challenge at hand. This means that the starting point is information asymmetry, with team members holding distinct, unshared information. However, it is easy for such a team to focus instead on discussing information that is commonly held. The usual reasons for this are that:

  • It is easier to discuss issues commonly known, and it takes courage to bring new points of view to the table.
  • Team members may falsely assume that certain knowledge is commonly known and are unaware that others lack some of the knowledge they have. 
  • Team members may fear exposing their ignorance in front of experts from different disciplines, which may lead to a situation where “stupid” questions are never asked and privately held information is never shared.

If the team is unable to create circumstances where individually held information and knowledge is shared, team performance begins to suffer. This highlights the dual responsibilities of people working in a diverse team: They must be willing and able to actively share their points of view with others while at the same time be curious about the ideas and thoughts of others, and actively listen to them.

Information asymmetry image
Graphics by Anna Kuukka

Building blocks for unlocking the potential of a diverse team

For a diverse team to succesfully harness its potential to solve ill-defined problems, it must create practices that help the team achieve that potential and, concurrently, create an atmosphere that allows team members to step outside their comfort zones. The following four practices build the foundation for teamwork: 

  • Awareness of the skills and knowledge within the team. 

The better and sooner that team members understand each other’s skills, experiences, and capabil­ities, the easier it is to utilize those throughout the project. When solving ill-defined problems, we must see beyond our educational backgrounds, because the valuable insight to the challenge at hand may come from another type of understanding. 

  • Understanding one’s role on the project team. 

Role-related uncertainty and ambiguity may impede team members from fully utilizing their knowledge in a project. Unless team members recognize their inputs as necessary and valuable, they may have a tendency to hold back or believe their contribution is irrelevant.  

  • Shared ways of working. 

Practices that are built early on tend to stick throughout a project and create a structure for solutions. However, these mutually agreed-upon practices must be cultivated along the way.

  • Constructive and systematic feedback. 

Feedback that is provided in a systematic and safe way supports open communication and builds an atmosphere of trust. It also has the power to eliminate assumptions of ourselves and those of others.

This site presents seven tools to support the successful teamwork strategies presented above as depicted in the following picture. 

Cornerstones for unlocking the potential of a team
Graphics by Anna Kuukka

Framework for supporting teamwork in project-based courses

This framework proposes the most fruitful point in time for utilizing the seven tools within a project. However, they are useful and can be utilized in different phases as well and also in contexts other than projects. This is a simplified representation a project where the team is set out to solve an ill-defined problem.

Beginning: What to expect?

This is the time to start building the foundations for a successful teamwork. Successful teamwork does not mean that the team would not be facing challenges along the way rather that they have the means to deal with these challenges to efficiently continue working toward their goal. 

On the go: How are we doing as a team and how am I doing in the team?

Typically, teams are busy with pushing the project forward and the focus is placed on more concrete aspects like ensuring the project is on schedule. The more intangible aspects - such as considering how the team is doing as a team, and taking the time to share and hear how everyone is feeling about the project and their role in it - are easily neglected. However, taking the time to reflect on how the team is working together and what are the feelings and thoughts of each individual often pays off in efficiency and good spirit.

At the end: How did it all go? 

The end of the project is a fruitful time to reflect on the journey done together with the team. What did you learn about working in a team? What do you want to take with you and, on the other hand, what are the things you need to pay more attention to in the future? 

Framework for supporting team work along the project
Graphics by Anna Kuukka

Tools for Supporting Teamwork

Lifeline Exercise Banner

Lifeline Exercise

When? In the beginning. Purpose: Getting to know the team members.

Collaboration
Team's Values and Guidelines Banner

Team's Values and Guidelines

When? In the beginning. Purpose: To create the foundation for team culture and its ways of working.

Collaboration
Team Agreement Banner

Team Agreement

When? In the beginning. Purpose: To get more specific on the practices of the team.

Collaboration
Me as a team member

Me as a Team Member

When? In the beginning. Purpose: To discuss experiences on working in a team and recognise possible need for support.

Collaboration
Checklist for unlocking the potential of a team

Checklist for Unlocking the Potential of a Team

When? In the beginning. Purpose: Ensure awareness on issues that support in unlocking the potential of a team.

Collaboration
Reflection Cards Banner

Reflection Cards

When? On the go / At the end. Purpose: Ensure awareness on issues that support in unlocking the potential of a team.

Collaboration
I Like I Wish Banner

I Like I Wish

When? On the go / At the end. Purpose: To reflect on the roles of each team member and on the top and bottom moments faced so far.

Collaboration
Talk good banner

Talk Good Behind One's Back

When? At the end. Purpose: To give a chance to each individual to hear what others have appreciated in them.

Collaboration
  • Published:
  • Updated:
Share
URL copied!