December 18, 2009

Teaming and Learning in Community

Posted by Betsy Stiles
MS·MBA in Public and Nonprofit Management
Class of 2011

Teams are a huge part of the learning at the School of Management and in the last four months I have experienced teams of all sizes, shapes and life cycles. We started off in pre-term in teams of four to fifty, conquering fun orientation tasks at the Warren Conference Center, like raft building and ropes courses. These teams and sessions were short and fun, particularly if you happened to win the raft building contest with your awesome all female team. There was a bit of friendly competition, but I think everyone also saw the value of learning from one another. As the semester has progressed, we still recall lessons we learned as teams in our first weeks at Boston University.

As a class, we were divided into cohorts of a little over fifty. Initially, it just helped me identify the overwhelming number of new faces: Are you in my cohort? Oh, you are in that Cohort. Cool. However, my cohort and our cohort professors have quickly become a family. This semester, our cohort commiserated over early morning classes, drank a lot of coffee, participated in career fairs and lectures, cheered one another on in more or less friendly basketball games and trivia competitions, won the pumpkin carving contest, and spent a lot of time in smaller teams on class work. Sadly, this semester one of our professors lost a significant other, and this was another instance where I saw this community rally together in his support. I have been grateful to be part of a community of really generous classmates, who support one another and the staff and faculty at Boston University.

Some of the teams are informal and quick like the short break-out problem-solving sessions in the Managerial Statistics course or homework study groups. Any time you are looking for help on homework, there is some kind of study group meeting somewhere in building. The School of Management has teams rooms throughout the building, outfitted with monitors and screens for slideshows, or blackboards for brainstorming sessions. Other team experiences are more intense. In one project, I spent five long and intense days with a team of four working through a marketing simulation that involved frequent decisions under high pressure, and then developing a presentation of our learning.

I have spent the entire semester with one team of seven very diverse people working on product research and developing a business plan for the theoretical acquisition of a brand. This integrated project cuts across multiple disciplines, requiring us to apply learning from all of our classes this semester, and it involves way more work than any one person can do. You have to trust your teammates and let go of your own control of the project. Sometimes this works out very well, and sometimes team members have really different expectations than one another. I have experienced some of both, as I think many of my classmates have, and both are good learning experiences. And that is why I am here, to learn more about working with a really diverse group of people.

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