Teampedia reviews of books and articles, interviews with people experienced in team building, and other items of interest.
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Group Brainstorming - a Bad Idea?
In the 1940’s book “Your Creative Power,” a partner in a Madison Avenue advertising agency revealed what he considered his company’s central secret to innovation and success: the group “brainstorm.” He said that “using the brain to storm a creative problem . . . in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective” brings about the most and best ideas possible.
The group exercise he promoted, which stipulated that each idea must meet no criticism, became the most widely used creativity technique worldwide. It is still used in many corporate and academic settings.
But, according to scientific research cited in that New Yorker article, brainstorming does not work very well. Lehrer discusses other approaches that are considered successful for stimulating creativity in a group. One famous example was “Building 20,” a location in which a conglomeration of offices and shops were in close physical proximity. In it, diverse people involved in various fields found that their ongoing, unplanned mingling was key to stimulating creativity and productivity.
What have your experiences been with group brainstorming? Is it successful for your team? Have you found ways to make group brainstorming worthwhile?
Team Building Globally, Serving Locally
Each year since 2008, thousands of Google employees have teamed up to serve their communities as part of GoogleServe, an employee-driven initiative organized almost entirely by volunteers. Through partnerships with nonprofits and schools, Googlers from over 100 cities in over 35 countries help communities in need with projects ranging from educating youth about online bullying to cleaning up local rivers and parks. In 2013, more than 8,500 Googlers participated in 500 projects.
"Giving back to our communities strengthens our connections with the places in which we live and work. And it also brings us closer together as a global team," says Seth Marbin, GoogleServe's founder and original Global Leader [Marbin is also the founder and lead of Teampedia]. Each year the event has grown in size and scope.
Examples of GoogleServe projects:
- In New York, Googlers led resume writing workshops and provided career coaching to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members seeking employment.
- Googlers helped Mountaineering Ireland construct drains in order to maintain a stretch of trail along the Dublin Mountains Way.
- Googlers facilitated a strategic planning session for staff from the Post Prison Education Program in Seattle.
- Googlers conducted an online tools workshop for NGOs in Singapore with the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.
- Googlers fixed up bikes with Free Ride in Pittsburgh; the bikes were donated to local nonprofits and residents.
- At the Punjabi Bagh Central Market area in West Delhi, Googlers cleaned and removed old, decayed posters with the help of “Lets do it Delhi,” an organization which has taken up the initiative to minimize abuse of public property.
GoogleServe projects are planned and coordinated by a core team of employees, and the company provides transportation, meals, materials, and equipment for all Googlers who choose to participate in projects of their choice, on company time. GoogleServe is the company's annual week of focus on volunteer efforts, yet service is encouraged year round through programs which include 20 hours of work time annually for any individual to volunteer with an approved charitable organization.
Googlers share in a variety of other team building opportunities. Celebrations include retreats at Disneyland, fairs for the children of employees, and formal adult parties. Staff can join together onsite for meditation and yoga classes, hear inspirational speakers, and participate in life-enriching trainings.
Yet GoogleServe builds the team spirit in a special way. "I'm painting a senior center in my town, interacting in a new way with folks I sit near Monday through Friday, and meeting some I've never met who work in a different Google building," said one Googler. "And while I'm spilling paint on my GoogleServe t-shirt, I know that around the world, Googlers wearing the same shirt are shoveling debris, or teaching a teen, or fixing a wagon. We're all helping out together. I like the feeling."
Read more about GoogleServe:
Choosing Ice-Breakers with a Purpose
Icebreakers can be a positive addition to a training session by energizing the group, initiating creative thinking, and encouraging involvement. This practice provides guidelines for using icebreakers.
Issue Training sessions should include a variety of interactive, experiential activities. Icebreakers are often used during training to make people open up or feel comfortable, encourage participation in a group activity, and stimulate inclusion. An ineffective icebreaker can create discomfort or tension, straining rather than energizing a group dynamic.
Action For an icebreaker activity to be effective, it should be well designed and linked to training objectives. A good icebreaker: • Should not last longer than ten minutes if it is the opening activity; an icebreaker at other points during the training tends to have an optimal length of 15 to 30 minutes • Encourages trust and cooperation within a small group or the entire group of members -- some icebreakers should be cooperative rather than competitive • Makes the group feel challenged, but not uncomfortable • Is a team building experience and involves all members • Initiates conversations and interactions • Increases the respect and liking of other group members • Shows interesting new things about people who have known each other for some time • Reflects your members' diverse needs. Select an activity that is appropriate to your groups' age level, physical mobility, or personal interest • Is appropriate for your group's stage of development • Ties the activity to the session topic • Fits your training session design; for instance, if you need smaller groups to be formed later in the training, use the icebreaker to accomplish this • Fits the training location Use icebreakers: • At the beginning of pre-service training to help members become acquainted and begin the session with a fun activity • After lunch to avoid the mid-afternoon fatigued feeling • After a difficult or intense session to release tension • After assigning members to work with people they do not know well to facilitate group interaction
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