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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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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Team Canvas – Get your team on the same page

This is a guest post by Alex Ivanov. Alex and his team developed a simple-to-use and very visual framework called Team Canvas for teambuilding and team alignment that is available freely to anyone under Creative Commons licence. We are grateful to Alex for having shared this great tool with the facilitators’ community, and also glad to announce that you can find Team Canvas resources on SessionLab both in the library and as a Featured Session – so you can seamlessly integrate it in your next session plan if you decide to do so.

On average, only 46 out of 100 workgroups within organizations end up creating value for companies, and up to 92% of freshly created startup teams are destined to fail for various reason. A study mentioned by Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman suggests that 60+% of those reasons are related to problems within teams, e.g. miscommunication, unresolved conflicts, co-founder disagreements, key players leaving teams at pivotal moments and so on.

What makes it even worse is that the tools for team maintenance and leadership for various reasons are not easily available to small teams like startups and creative agencies, and are not widely used within even bigger companies.

Here is a simple question: Is there something you personally can do to make the team you work in more successful and productive? We suggest that simply put, yes.

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Why trainers don’t share?

While working on TrainedOn we’ve had the chance to interview many experienced soft skills trainers and educators from around the world. We were discussing individual working habits and the training industry in general to better understand trainers’ needs and desires.

We received honest but sometimes puzzling replies to our questions. When we touched the topic of sharing materials, almost all interviewees told us they are reluctant to share training materials with each other.

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