IDEO HCD course: 5 Strategies for Team Formation

design thinking

Our team, the Gumbo Gabbers, has fully launched into the IDEO/+Acumen HCD course. We’re moving along with Week 2’s Discover phase but a lot of insights have come about just in our first week while forming our group.

(Re)Introductions to HCD

The first official week of the course was an introduction to each other (for the third time) and to the human-centered methodology. In short, we did an ice breaker, brainstorming, and two mini-design activities. You can find the workshop content here to get the full scope of activities.

After the first workshop, I noticed some tactics that I thought would be helpful for any group or team that is starting out. Some of these are well-known and others were new to me. You can apply these to a team working on a building project, a business, a hackathon, a community project, etc. If it involves people working together to create something, these five strategies will help you.

5 Strategies for Team Formation

1. Icebreakers are Essential

I have a bad connotation with the term ‘icebreaker’. It makes me cringe when I hear it and I feel like I’m going to be forced to make friends. Since our group had met before, we contemplated skipping this step. But we went ahead and did it, and it ended up being our favorite activity. It put us in a positive, playful mood and was worth every minute. This icebreaker wasn’t a name game or mixer; it was called visual telephone (or drawing telephone in education,) which made sense given our upcoming activities. So now I’m on the icebreaker bandwagon. I recommend picking one that’s relevant to setup the group energy and embrace the icebreaker!

2. Multiply Your Time by Two

Being a group of six virtual strangers, all of the activities took a bit longer than what was stated in the workshop guide. Group formation is essential to the rest of the project so take the time at the beginning to learn about each other and don’t rush it. We now plan our time accordingly and spend the extra time so we maximize our results. This may not always be possible when doing a paid project, but if you can incorporate this time in the beginning, it’ll pay off in the end.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the activities in Week 1 was to do a mini design challenge on improving the daily commute. This was practice for the 4-week design challenge we’re taking on now, and it was good to start as a pair to learn one-on-one. The more opportunities you have to practice, the more you will learn and adjust your methods.

4. Reflect and Share

At the end of our workshop, there was time allotted to reflect and share. I hadn’t done this before in previous workshops but it was a good way to be open about some of our frustrations and learnings. This was also good for me because I tend to do a lot of internal reflection but not much communication back to teammates for fear of offending or ruffling feathers. Providing this time to share gave us (and me) a chance to be open and make improvements for the upcoming weeks.

5. Know Thyself

The biggest thing you bring to a group is yourself. Being in tune with and honest about your strengths, weaknesses, insights, and biases is the best position when contributing to a team. It’s taken me a lot of time to be comfortable with what I do well and what I struggle with, and I’m still learning. I continue to check myself when I’m in a new setting, especially working with new people, so I can be at my best and bring out the best in others.

Next Up

In Week 2, we’re beginning the design challenge with the Discover phase. I’ll be out interviewing community members in London. Let’s see how my American accent is taken…

What are your tips or tricks for starting out in a new group? Let’s hear it below!

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  1. […] been a good eight weeks since I first wrote about what we were going to do, and as of this past Sunday, we officially completed the […]

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