I want to post today about a surprising gem I’ve found in this program: group work. I’ll come right out and admit that I don’t have the best history with groups in that I often feel like I can do a better job solo than when I’m working with a group. I don’t always have the best patience with the different personalities and compromises necessary when working in groups, so I’d say that in this specific area, I’m a tad weak. I realize this about myself, but at the same time I haven’t had experiences that would lead me to believe that group work inherently leads to better results…until now.
I feel like there are many concepts and topics that we have a chance to learn in this program, but I also believe that many can be learned from our own research or picking up a few good books. In the case of working with others, this program illustrates its strength. In my personal experience thus far, I can say that I’ve learned more about myself and how to work with others more effectively. I’ve learned other concepts as well in Microeconomics and Managerial Effectiveness, but it’s the “working with others” part as well as my own self-discovery that I think will be the most useful in my career.
Each person and group can only really speak to their own experiences, but I thought I’d take a little time and write about my time with my group to this point in the program. To begin with, the program asks that we take personality tests during the pre-work before Term 1. The admins use this to place us in our teams. Based on our group’s personality scores as a whole, I feel like we are purposely put with people that we may work well with but also people that we will struggle to work with. I suppose it’s the idea that through adversity we grow as professionals in experience and character…and I have to agree that there’s going to be experience AND adversity when you first start out with the group work!
So my group started with diving right into group bonding stuff. Even before it was suggested by the professor, we sat down in a group and went over our pasts, our personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we hoped to get out of this program. I feel like this was a good start and that we all took the group dynamics thing (the possible issues and problems that may crop up in the future) quite seriously. Our first few assignments together were a bit rough as we worked things out. I have to admit candidly that I had my own problems and didn’t handle a couple situations in the best way. Still, we kept building on things. I feel like the first true bonding experience was our OPEC assignment in class. It really felt like we were doing our best, working ethically in the assignment, and we pulled together as we were continually screwed with by a few of the other teams. We walked away from that assignment with one of the lowest scores, but we were MUCH stronger as a group as we developed an “us against them” group mentality. I saw a lot of how we as individuals worked, as well as how we as a team worked. We also did activities outside the assignments while in Shanghai, visiting some sites and sharing a great meal at a Chinese restaurant. A couple of our group members speak the local language and helped us through the menu items. It was a great time!
The distance portion started a bit rough as we had to adapt all over again to new challenges. We tried various forms of communication, some working and some totally failing. We set ground rules with how we would work together and, through trial and error, found ways that worked best for us as a group. Our assignments over time have improved, at least from my point of view. Really, we get the work done on time and at a pretty high quality. Now, with our last assignment, we achieved a nearly perfect score! I think that was truly the epiphany for me. I look at our last project, at the quality, and I realize that there is NO way I could have done that level of work by myself. Truly, my group did a much better job than I could ever dream of doing on the same project.
Finally, I also want to note something our group personality results pointed out, that we as a group are great at tackling and efficiently completing our work, but we are poor at recognizing our accomplishments. This post is all about acknowledging my team and their accomplishments. Guys, you did an awesome job and I’m proud to be a part of our team.
I don’t want to name names, but here is my impression of the other five members of my team:
A student that speaks rarely, but we all stop and listen when the student has something to say as there is always something worthwhile in the message…and the hidden humor is great when the student lets their subtle humor out.
A student that can somehow party like a rockstar at night yet work like a beast on assignments, consistently producing an amazing quality of work.
A student that bridges the tensions in our group and helps us work more effectively while also including a quality in writing that is a sight to see.
A student that bears the hard role of ‘devil’s advocate’ but also gives perspectives that the rest of us wouldn’t see if the student didn’t present the ideas.
A student that often takes complicated concepts and ideas and simplifies them for those of us (like myself) that are confused by some of the work. Also, the student often gives a different perspective on the work and presents great ideas for our project work.