Team-building – the often forgotten key to unlocking optimal productivity

moomiIT has been a year since we started our 5-year Nordforsk funded project – The Nordic Center of Excellence – Beyond the Gender Paradox in Nordic countries. We have had multiple virtual meetings along the way but just a couple of F2F workshops. Since our F2F workshops occur atleast twice a year in rotation between the three primary partner countries (Norway, Finland and Sweden), they are usually highly anticipated, engaging and empowering. We get to meet each other, discuss very interesting research progress, eat good food, strategize for wayforward – all in a limited space of time.

This year, something extra happened. To spice up the year’s first F2F workshop, the hosts from University of Tampere organised the most secretive, highly anticipated team-building activity. In preparation for the trip, we were told to ‘bring comfortable walking shoes and a jacket that tolerates a light breeze or rain’ 🙂 Anticipation was rife among members and our repeated inquiries for details were met with adamant and ever-so-gentle rebuffs.

So, on D-day, day 2, after taking care of the day’s business – the 2-hour team building activities begun. We were split in 3 groups, each consisting of members from the different countries, the hosts were our guides. These are highlights from the activities:

Task 1: Sightseeing – The Walk to Pyynikki Towertower1

A 30min walk upwards towards the famous Pyynikki Tower was most exhilarating. Along the way, we were guided through the city’s monuments – learning about its histrory, architeture, hero(ines) and other significant artifacts and symbolic structures of the City. The prize of this task was tower4indeed the famous Pyynikki Tower, strategically located at the edge of the city. The top of the Tower invites to a spectacular view of Tampere, seen to be sandwitched between two lakes. We were then treated to the famous Pyynikki doughnuts ‘Munkkis’ as we prepared for the next task.

Task 2: Individual Identity Construction.

This was an Individual Identity Construction exercise. The task was to describe yourself in one word in your language or name a characteristic that defines you as a person and explain why. The rest in the group were to remember both the word and meaning.

Task 3: Team Identity Construction.

tower2What started as an individual introspection then led to this task in which the Group Identity was to be constsructed through the characteristics above. We came up with a name for the Group that combined all four individual characteristics. And, through pictures, expressions, symbolism and metaphors – we were able to consolidate both our individual and collective Identities.

Task 4: Collective Consciousness

Next, we were tasked to be in motion, to reflect and express what we felt, thought or wondered about. So, we took a walk into the nearby forest overlooking the lake. The outcome of this was the convergence of characteristics from 1-3 and MORE. Our conversations also steered us towards societal discourses and ontologies – social constructedness of reality and cultural boundedness of people. In essense, we are different but we are the same…?!

Task 5: The Melting Pot

leeviBy this time, 2 hours had flown by. We had arrived at the beautiful ‘Mum&Paps’ Restaurant Heinatori, happily famished. As we sat around the table, enjoying our delicious pre-ordered meals, the different teams shared their activity experiences and outcomes to much laughter, cheer and chatter.

SO, in these simple, fun, non-competitive, activity-based tasks – we not only, got some exercize, unwound, engaged in introspective self awareness, but we also, perhaps most importantly, learnt so much about each other – Beyond what the confines of the ‘boardroom’ would allow us. By the end of this exercise, we were both exhausted and renewed for the next day’s activities which also included kick-starting our first PhD course.

Team building has been scientifically shown to positively affect team effectiveness such as having an impact on cognitive, affective, process and performance outcomes. This is because, the sociality of the exercises enhances motivation, helps individul purposes, goals achievement and sense of identity and belonging – which i believe is a key to unlocking productivity. Im my (Our) case, in addition to enhancing the social relations of our group, it deepened inter-cultural understandings as well as enhancing knowledge on the very discourses we work with.

Special thanks to Tampere team and to all partners (especially the #ReflectiveRebels 🙂 )for the wonderful experiences! 

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