Organizational Development Consultant

Seven Techniques to Boost Creativity and Teamwork: #4 Team Learning

April 7, 2014

“Our group is limited to our own old habits, opinions and experiences.  But the challenges facing us call for a fuller understanding and broader perspective.  We joke that we all need to go back to college to get some new ideas, but, of course, there’s no time for that now.  Do you have any suggestions?”

#4:  TEAM LEARNING

What is TEAM LEARNING?

TEAM LEARNING is a technique that provides a work team or meeting group with the resources to learn new information.  Teams often become so busy accomplishing tasks and making decisions that they don’t take any time for the reflection, learning and dialogue needed to stimulate new perspectives, insights, and wisdom.  In addition to providing the team with new knowledge, TEAM LEARNING can also provide a forum for the group to share ideas and opinions.

TEAM LEARNING information can come from people, films, articles, or other resources.

When Do I Use TEAM LEARNING?

• When your group needs new skills, ideas and perspectives to be successful.
• When it is necessary to introduce new and/or controversial information.
• When you want to build a sense of team as a bi-product of learning.
How Do I Use TEAM LEARNING?

1. Introduce the technique and discuss the need for TEAM LEARNING with the group.  You might start the conversation by saying, “In order for us to work as effectively as we need to, it seems that we need to make a commitment to continuous learning.  What do you think?”

2. Determine, with the help of the group, what TEAM LEARNING is needed and what methods should be used.

OPTION A: Find films that will provide useful information.  Look for films on topics pertinent to the group’s work, industry, or areas for skill development.

OPTION B: Books or articles from newspapers, professional journals or other publications can also serve this same purpose.  Have your group read a periodical or book together, perhaps one chapter a week, and discuss it as an agenda item at your meetings.  Some groups opt for a weekly or monthly “brown bag” lunch discussions.

OPTION C: Using outside experts or other people outside the group is another idea.  These people could come from a local university, another organization, or a person from another department or division within your own organization.  Remember to consider those inside the group with special expertise as well.

NOTE: Experts do not necessarily come from high levels within their organization.  For example, the best experts may be those directly involved with the manufacture of a specific item.

OPTION D: Tours or field trips can also be very insightful.  Consider touring customers’ facilities using your products.  Visit a non-competing firm to view their manufacturing facilities, office set up, or specific services.   These tours can be used to gather new information, better understand customer needs or benchmark “best practices”.

3. Gain agreement on the purpose, methods and scheduling of TEAM LEARNING.  Ask for one or more volunteers to be responsible for coordinating activities.  This responsibility could rotate.  Document your agreements on a chart paper and distribute as part of the minutes of your meeting.

4. Carry out the TEAM LEARNING as planned.

5. As part of each learning session, debrief or summarize the TEAM LEARNING information.  Examples of debriefing questions include:  “What were the key points of what we learned?”  “What was your reaction to what we heard today?”  “What would be the positives for us?” “And the negatives?”  “What alternatives to our present methods of working do we have?”  “What action shall we take?”

NOTE: Debriefing the TEAM LEARNING information is critical. Without this important step, much of the energy and potential from the inclusion of this new information will be wasted.

In Summary:

TEAM LEARNING is a technique to spark creativity and better analysis by providing new information from outside the participant group.  Sources for this type of continuous learning can come from films, books and periodicals, and people outside the meeting group.

1. Discuss the need for TEAM LEARNING with your meeting group.

2. Determine which TEAM LEARNING resources or methods can best provide the information you are seeking.

3. Gain agreement on the purpose, methods and scheduling of TEAM LEARNING.

4. Carry out the TEAM LEARNING as planned.

5. Debrief or summarize each learning session.

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