How To Use Team Building to Enhance Your Team’s Creativity At Work

This team building activity will enable your team do a quick review of its objectives, identify blocks that may be slowing its progress toward achieving those objectives, and consider any corrections needed.

This activity is self-directed, in that your team should be able to follow the steps outlined below without outside assistance from a consultant. The only materials needed are four sheets of flip chart paper, a marking pen, a means for attaching flip chart paper to the wall (tape, pins, or magnets), and paper and pencil for each member.

The activity will take a little over an hour; additional time may be needed to deal with issues that surface.

STEP ONE: Select A Timekeeper-Recorder

Select one member to let everyone know when it is time to move on to the next step. This person also will record items on flip chart paper during the process.

STEP TWO: Individual Contemplation

Time required: about 5 minutes. The purpose of this step is to creatively generate material for subsequent discussion. Each individual should write down on a pad of paper:

  •  What are the main objectives of the team.
  •  What factors are contributing to the achievement of those objectives; i.e., team strengths.
  •  What blocks the achievement of those objectives; i.e., weaknesses of the team, or hinderances it has encountered.
  • In considering the strengths and weaknesses the team has shown thus far, think about the following three areas:

1. Tasks: How you have organized and planned the work, how you ensure follow-through of assignments, how you call, organize and manage meetings, etc.?

2. Interpersonal Relations: How you deal with questions of equity in workload, how conflict and disagreement are handled, how leadership roles are assigned and fulfilled, etc.?

3. External Relations: How relations with your company are being handled; how you are dealing with and being dealt with by people who advise you; how you are managing your relations with other people and teams, etc?

STEP THREE: Reviewing Objectives and Identifying Issues

Time required: about 15 minutes. Begin a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Pairs of members review the objectives of the team, and then discuss:

  • things that help the team achieve those objectives
  • things that hinder the team’s work.

The main points generated in this discussion will be shared with the team as a whole. Here are the steps to follow:

Form pairs of members. If there is not an even number of people present, include one triad. (The timekeeper/recorder should participate in this and all subsequent activities).

Each pair compares views about the objectives of the team, and the factors that have contributed to and detracted from their achievement by the team. As a starting point use the notes each member of the pair prepared earlier and wrote down.

Write down the main conclusions you reach as a pair about objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and decide which of you will report your conclusions to the rest of the team.

STEP FOUR: Pairs Report To The Team As A Whole

Time required: about 15 minutes. In this step, one person of each pair reports the major conclusions the pair reached. Discussion at this point should focus on making sure everyone understands what each pair has to say. Defer discussion of disagreements and interpretations until later in the session.

The timekeeper/recorder puts three sheets of flip chart paper on the wall, and labels them (a) Objectives, (b) Strengths, and (c) Weaknesses.

Each pair, in turn, gives its view of the main objectives toward which the team is working. The timekeeper writes down the main points, quickly in abbreviated phrases, to provide a public record of the points made.

Then each pair gives its views of the main strengths the work unit has shown and these are recorded; then each pair gives its views of the main hinderances the team has encountered or weaknesses it has shown.

The team may wish to discuss any patterns that are present in the reports.

— How much consensus does there seem to be about what the objectives of the team are?

— How similar or different are the views about strengths or weaknesses?

— Does task, interpersonal or external relations get the most attention in the reports?

Remember: the emphasis should be on getting a good descriptive feel for the data, rather than on evaluating what was said, trying to resolve disagreements, or starting to figure out what to do.

STEP FIVE: Individual Assessments of the Importance of Issues

Time required: about 5 minutes. At this point discussion stops for a few minutes, to allow individuals time to assess and reflect privately on what has been generated.

Each individual, after studying the material on the flip chart papers, should write on her or his own pad of paper a response to the following question: What is the single most important issue we need to address if we want to improve our effectiveness as a team?

NOTE: This is an opportunity for individual insight and creativity. Each

individual comes up with the best idea he or she can generate about what the group needs to attend to right now, whether or not the issue is on one of the flip chart papers.

STEP SIX: Collecting and Clarifying Individual Responses

Time required: about 10 minutes. Each individual reads her or his response to the question, and the timekeeper-recorder summarizes it in brief phrases on a fourth sheet of flip chart paper. Questions of clarification are dealt with, but discussion is deferred until all ideas have been presented and recorded.

STEP SEVEN: Prioritizing Suggestions

Time required: about 10 minutes. The team discusses the ideas that are now summarized on the fourth newsprint sheet, and prioritizes them. In a large group, this is best done using a structured technique; in small groups, informal discussion will suffice.

In considering the ideas that have been proposed, assess both their importance to the team and the likelihood that real improvements could be achieved if the team took them on. Sometimes even very important issues are wholly beyond the control of the team, or would require great expenditures of time and energy to realize only small gains.

After a period of discussion, the team should select one to three issues that seem worth addressing. In the time remaining, work can begin on the highest priority item(s).

STEP EIGHT: Action Plan for Highest Priority Item

Time required: about 15 minutes. In this step, develop a plan for making some progress on your highest priority item.

Generate two or three different ways you might proceed to work on your first priority item. Be as imaginative and creative as you can; you can always reject plans later.

Evaluate each of these alternative ways to proceeding on the following criteria:

a. Which would be the most efficient, and use the least amount of people’s time?

b. Which would be most likely to yield real improvements in team functioning, or otherwise improve the chances that you will meet or exceed your objectives for the project?

c. Which would be the most fun to do?

Given the above, how do you want to proceed to work on your first priority item if you cannot carry out your plan now? Who will notify absent members? Who will serve as the conscience of the team in making sure that the plan is actually executed?

STEP NINE: Wrap Up

Time required: About 10 minutes.  Take the last few minutes to review what happened in this session.  Questions you might ask yourselves include:

What did we accomplish today? Was it worth the time we spent on it?

Think about how we behaved. If someone had been observing us, what would that person say about how we operate? Are there things we can learn from how we functioned today that could be applied to our regular work?

What might we want to tell others about how this session could have been made more helpful? Can this kind of meeting be done on an on-going basis? Who will take responsibility?

Is there any “unfinished business” from today’s session? Are there things that any of us have to say to other people or to the team as a whole that remain unsaid?

©2017 by Edward Glassman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Glassman was a Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the Center For Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC, a ‘Visiting Professor’ at the University Of California at Irvine, and a ‘Visiting Scientist’ at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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