“Yes, we did learn a lot during the bootcamp, however, there were some unexpected benefits – we actually got to know each other. Especially in the COVID times, we have not had time to get to do things together outside of our roles. The bootcamp gave us the opportunity to see our team members in a different setting. And it was great!” Said Service Design bootcamp participants after, as thier team finished the 8-week program.
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It's not a secret - you can't do it all alone. How effectively you work together determines how much work you get done. And this is relevant also for learning environments. According to Josh Bersin, if we study alone, we only remember 28% of all content, however if we discuss the learning with peers, the number goes up to 70% (Bersin, J. The Power of Collaborative Learning: More important than ever, 2019).
Modern learning is unimaginable without active, hands-on participation for a single reason – time is the highest valued currency. So better to spend it as effectively as possible. During the bootcamps, we spend only 20% of our time addressing theory and context. The other 80% is spent as we call ‘immersion’ and reflection. Immersion is the time when the team works together on practical, hands-on exercises, uses the topic, learns to work collaboratively. After the assignment is done, together with coach and other teams reflect on what went well and what can be improved in the next round.
If you care about your business, enable your team to learn.
It’s not just about being able to remember and apply your learnings after the bootcamp is done! There are several other key benefits worth mentioning, and as organisations struggle to build effective and collaborative teams more and more, these benefits gain in importance every day. (LinkedIn, Global Talent Trends 2022).
1. Best people are motivated by self-development. By providing a cutting-edge learning program, you are investing in the most important asset - people, and that they are driven to remain in your company and continue performing an outstanding job collectively.
2. Adopting soft critical skills to drive outcomes. Consider team learning to be a win-win situation: a chance to gain advantages throughout your whole learning journey. To begin, you learn how to manage your stakeholders in a team setting by effectively leading them through your work and towards your objective. Second, team learning allows you to grasp the significance of group dynamics, obtaining buy-in, and achieving success in your job.
3. Setting the business up for innovation. Learning leads to ongoing progress, which is essential for long-term success. Greater agility and the capacity to better capitalise on new technology are two of the most important corporate advantages of learning. As a result, considerable competitive advantage in current and prospective markets may be achieved. Enabling your customer teams to learn together increases commitment, willingness, and confidence in an organization's ability to achieve change and growth.
4. Achieving long-term business success. In today's connected world, organizations often face a variety of problems with their customer service teams, including siloed working; a lack of efficient coordination between marketing and sales; discrepancies across online and physical channels; and under-informed service workers. This arises due to teams being organised on products and channels rather than customers. Furthermore, organizations that want to shift from a product-led to a customer-centric focus fall into the trap of undermining the implementation of meaningful change.
Is team learning for everyone?
There is this famous visual (see below) where all animals in a jungle need to take the final test – climbing the tree. For a bird and monkey, it’s an easy task, but what about elephant? Does it mean that elephant has not learned hard enough?
The task of modern education organisations is to understand learner’s needs (including the content they learn) and respect the learning styles, preferences, and personalities. The conciseness of these and ability to navigate them in a learning environment is the true mastery of a coach and learning designer. If we take the jungle example as a reference, each of the animals have skills that the others do not, so how can they work together to achieve the outcome.
In addition to understanding the outcome of the work as a team, every team member will have a different perspective and preference of how to achieve the outcome. When designing learning, it is key to understand for whom we are designing. So how to make it work for all? Most likely that is impossible. However, there are several design tactics, that can help to achieve good results for most.
1. Team learning for introverts: building consistent teams.
Introverts who prefer to work alone may find it difficult to warm up to others and join a team and even further – learn in a team. Generally, introverts need time to think, to reply or share thoughts. Therefore, it is critical to include a description about the learning sessions, what will be discussed and decided, share documents and pre-reading (Working with introverts, written by an actual introvert, Atlassian 2019. https://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/working-with-introverts).
Furthermore, socialising can be challenging too. Introverts require consistency in their team-building efforts so they may go deeper with their teams over time. Therefore, the teams in the bootcamp are kept throughout the whole bootcamp, information is clear and delivered about all activities and order of events.
2. Team learning for dominant participants: raising awareness and sharing feedback.
We all have been in the meetings or environments where dominant people take the lead and potentially drive a team to their desired outcome, which is not always beneficial to the team in achieving their desired goals and customer outcomes. According to Neil Maclaren, the person who talks the most is the most likely to become the leader. Regardless of intelligence and expertise, groups elevate those who command the most airtime (Testing the babble hypothesis: Speaking time predicts leader emergence in small groups, MacLaren et al, 2020).
During bootcamps a couple of tactics are applied to deal with this. Firstly, each team member has a role they need to play during the working sessions, such as ‘time tracker’, ‘note taker’, ‘decision driver’ and others. These roles rotate and therefore all team members get to do different ‘jobs’ during the sessions.
A dominant team member may not be aware of their impact on others. To manage these situations, effective feedback loops are implemented in the learning design. It means that people who are experiencing dominant team member have an opportunity to raise the issue, as well as a dominant team member raises awareness of the impact they have on others. (How to hold your own alongside a dominating personality, Fast Company2021. https://www.fastcompany.com/90654641/how-to-hold-your-own-alongside-a-dominating-personality)
While every organisation is different, it’s still about the people - social creatures. When we put ourselves through the intense and vulnerable process of learning, it is so much more enjoyable, effective and multi-layered when done together with others. (How To Make The Workplace Learning Experience More Inclusive, Revwork (2019). https://revwork.ai/how-to-make-the-workplace-learning-experience-more-inclusive/)