Since February this year I have been involved in the project called DEMOLA. They say they are an international organization that facilitates co-creation projects between university students and companies, either locally or internationally. The basic idea is that a company (called partner) gives a real business case for students to solve. Students at the same time are collected all over, from different universities and faculties. By default teams are built in a way that no-one has ever worked with other teammates before.
Here is the team I was working with
From the left: Signe, Valters, Zanda, Lilita, me, Elza, and Arturs.
So here you are – unknown business, unknown team and 4 months to solve the problem.
What were the lessons learned?
LESSON No.1 You will never be all on the same page, which is good!
In our team, teammembers were representing media, design, IT, management and economics – every profession has its own way of thinking, understanding and imaging things. This lead us to a lot of discussions, not always being on the same page. But it broadened our knowledge, helped get know more solutions than we could think about and lead to the second lesson.
LESSON No.2 There are no bad ideas!
During 4 months we had plenty of ideas coming in and going out of our working process but when I’m looking to the end version of the product that we have made, it feels that all ideas more or less are there. So never say to anyone – this is bad idea. And always share even your worst ideas. Maybe a little change can lead to great performance of idea you didn’t like.
LESSON No.3 Do what you are good at and let others do their thing!
I always thought I have some taste towards art and design. During this time I understood that I was wrong and I won’t ever again try to make design for a product because I don’t do good designs. Therefore we have a design person. If you can speak to audience (which was more my case) then do it! Don’t do design ;) If you’re good at collecting data and information, do it! The team needs you where you give you’re highest added value. And you can always give critique (positive and negative) to others, but don’t disturb them when they’re doing their thing. Don’t mix up the responsibilities among all teammembers but make people responsible about the thing they know the best.
First get know yourself better – what are your strong and weak sides? Be honest and you will perform better at the end. Your weak sides can be your strong sides if you use them wisely or if you are not asked to use them ;) Utilize yourself well.
LESSON No.4 You can’t hide your emotions but you can control them.
Emotions are always there, especially when you’re not on the same page. It’s almost impossible to not to show what you feel, but you still can control it. And everyone will benefit if you do so. We never screamed even in our toughest meetings and that helped to save the respect towards each other and appreciate the best that every person can give and do. Also understand that we all are personalities and our characteristics won’t be changed because someone in the team wanted.
LESSON No.5 Do all the little things that make you feel as a team.
Our facilitator Lilita really insisted to make one outfit for all of us in the final pitch and that gave us two effects – first we really felt and acted as a team, second we got a positive feedback from judges that we made presentation more impressive. But this is not all. The little things are – drinking beer together, sharing with emotions when you’re having bad day, supporting each other during sleepless nights. You’re a little family now. Take good care of each other.
LESSON No.6 Write down the problem, and every time you start working read it AGAIN!
Sometimes when you’re too deep in your idea how to solve the problem, you have already forgot the REAL problem. Write it down somewhere and read it over and over again. At the same time, maybe the problem written by your partner is not the problem but the consequences of the problem, then DEFINE THE PROBLEM AS YOU SEE IT AND WRITE IT DOWN and read it over and over again. During our brainstorming sessions we sometimes got way too high and it was hard to get back on track. Reading the problem for 100 times helps!
LESSON No.7 It’s not about problem, it’s about people who are there to solve it!
People and time is the most valuable resources you have in your team! If you have built a strong cross-sectional / cross-professional team, no problem is too hard to solve it.
AND FINALLY – GO OUT THERE AND JUST HAVE FUN! IT’S MEANT TO BE FUNNY TO LIVE!
For information on the project, our partner was Vidzeme Planning Region.
The problem was defined as follows: Currently the only way how to promote the strategic development priorities outlined in the documents, is to provide the documents for general public in PDF format via region’s homepage and also through direct meetings with public, but in the modern age of technology the necessity to engage larger public, especially young people, it is important to maximally utilize the digital communication environment and audio-visual media, in order to convey the message on regional development priorities to a broader audiences, using engaging audio-visual solutions.
You can find all the cases and presentations from final pitch in the DEMOLA Latvia Youtube Channel.