Working with groups and teams: Is there a difference?

Working with groups and teams: Is there a difference?

I remember the first time I had to do a workshop for 30 or so bright-eyed students on the subject of teamwork. I had to explain the difference between a group and a team and how to form a group into a team. Up until this particular workshop what I have known about the group concept and the team concept could have been summed up like this: “a bunch of people coming together to do something.” Sure, it is not something you would put on a flipchart and call it a definition right? After some research, I realized I wasn’t entirely wrong.. but I was not right either. There is a lot more behind the group/team distinction and knowing the difference does matter when you deliver a training on group dynamics or teamwork, or you need to assemble a working group or a marketing team to do the job. The question is why does it matter?

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Thiagi methods now in SessionLab Library!

Thiagi methods in library

Learning by playing a game

As children, it is so natural for us to play games. During these game-times we learn a lot of things, that affects our thinking, feeling and actions. Usually, these learning-by-doing moments happen unnoticed, thus naturally. However, as we grow up we forget about the importance of this special kind of learning setting. And to be honest, not every type of game is applicable to adult life right? I mean would you really kneel down and dug a tunnel in a sandbox? Fortunately, there are many other ways to bring back some playing into our lives! One of them is to start using more games in your workshops…and Thiagi’s game collection might just be a great resource for that!

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Multi-day agendas available in SessionLab

Multiday workshop agenda

Ever since we released the first version of SessionLab, we received many requests to develop a better option to create multi-day agendas.

It is a frequent scenario that a workshop or training session spans longer than a day, and previously the only option was to create two separate sessions for each day and then trying to manage them together in the multi-plan view. That was certainly a cumbersome way to deal with such sessions.

We are happy to announce that support for multi-day agendas is now available in SessionLab!

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Introducing the new dashboard in SessionLab

Over the past months, we received a lot of suggestions about how to improve the dashboard, as it became harder and harder to have a good overview if you one many sessions created or shared with.

Now we are happy to announce the new redesigned dashboard as the solution to always stay on top of what’s happening on your own or in your team’s workspace!

What’s new there?

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Liberating Structures now in SessionLab Library

Simple rules that make it easy to include and unleash everyone in shaping the future (or at least the next meeting)

Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz sure had these kind of impressions and questions in their minds when they met in 2003 at Plexus Institute. They both had background in complexity science, improving organization’s workflow and learning methods. They shared a hunch that conventional structures (reports, presentations etc.) are too inhibiting while other techniques (brainstorming) are too loose. So building on a few methods they created Liberating Structures (the term itself is based on theory of power by William Torbert) that incorporates principles from complexity science, organizational development, improvisational arts, and user experience.

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The most useful free online tools for facilitators

There are plenty of online tools that can make your everyday life easier if you are preparing to facilitate an interactive session. The good thing is that you don’t have to pay a fortune to use technology that helps you make your job easier. In fact, there are plenty of free tools you can use to get yourself more productive in the process of preparing or following up a facilitated session.

We have collected the most useful tools we encountered while talking to our SessionLab users and from our personal experience. It was an important factor among the selection criteria that each of the tools should have a functional free version available without time limitation to use so one can rely on them on the long term for personal use.

We grouped them according to the type of tasks they are used for so you can find precisely what you need. Importantly, these tools may be just as useful if you facilitate face-to-face meetings or a training, as well as if you would facilitate online sessions. They are most useful for the preparation and follow-up work, not for the actual facilitation itself.

Your favourite tool is not on the list? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE 2017-04-05: We have updated this post with some new tools including a new section on online whiteboards.

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TrainedOn is now SessionLab

2016 was an inspiring year for us. Many facilitators discovered our platform, we worked on and delivered exciting new features, and we continued learning and growing along the way. As the year comes to a close we have one more important announcement left: we are changing the name of our platform to SessionLab. While there is no change in the features and functionality of the platform, you can continue reading our reflection on the past few years and reasons behind the name change.

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Four-dimensional facilitation techniques

This is a guest post by Gwendolyn Kolfschoten. Gwendolyn is an expert on collaboration, facilitation and group processes. As a researcher at Delft University of Technology, department of Technology Policy and Management, she studied collaboration processes for a decade. She was also a visiting scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the Engineering Systems Division. She has published many academic articles on collaboration and on tools and technologies to support group work, among them four dimensional framework about developing facilitation techniques that this post is about. Currently, Gwendolyn is the founder a company dedicated to supporting effective collaboration and the author of the book Effective Collaboration

Like a real craftsman, each facilitator has a toolbox, a toolbox with instruments, methods and techniques to support groups in achieving their goals. Groups typically have two types of goals. First, groups bond, they form a team; develop relations, trust, culture, common ground and mutual understanding, as a basis for effective collaboration. However, ultimately, groups work together towards a joint goal. In the end, groups are mostly formed to create joint results, outcomes that require the expertise, skills, insights, experiences and creative ideas of the members of the group in order to solve complex problems. Such results often require support from stakeholders involved, and therefore they should be based on consensus and shared understanding.

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