Monday, May 22, 2017

What I Learned from Annabelle

Wow, it’s been a long time since I have written a piece, but a very nice friend asked me to write again as she told me she had missed my blogging.  That felt good and I appreciated the nudge.  Thank you, Susan.

So, since it’s been over a year, I wanted to come back and connect with you again.

I am still teaching and attempting to live Design Thinking. A week ago, I learned more lessons about myself and others when I was taking a workshop at the SAP AppHaus on how to collaborate with people so that everyone can feel included and the team can feel creative as a whole.

We did an exercise where each team was asked to build a tower from large sheets of paper.  We just had paper and tape.  Each team competed to build the tallest tower in a short period of time.

Some teams were laughing and enjoying the process.

My group, on the other hand, had a woman named Annabelle as one of the members.  From the instant we started, Annabelle took control.  She told us exactly what to do and she didn’t ask for any feedback or ideas.  She just commanded.  I just sat there bowled over by her demands and had nothing to say and I didn’t make a move.  I felt completely shut down.  I didn’t want to participate.  I just didn’t care anymore.

I am not a quiet person.  I am always giving input, requested or not.  Anyway, Annabelle proceeded to be exceedingly annoyed with me and the rest of our team for not following her explicit instructions on how to build this tower.  As you can imagine, our team fell behind and definitely didn’t win the competition nor did we enjoy the process.  We weren’t very collaborative or creative.

The reason I like Design Thinking is because you can go to a talk or a class and they will tell you things, but it is doing these crazy exercises where you really see what they are trying to teach you.

So, here is what I learned:

1) Oh, my God, is this what I look like when I am on a team?  What a bitch!  Annabelle shut me down and everyone else on the team.  She clearly had no interest in what we had to say or how we thought the tower might be built.  I do this.  I try not to, but I do this.  I was floored by how it made me feel. I didn’t want to contribute anything.  You may be goal oriented, but if you forget about the emotional component of how other people feel, your team will never be at its best (and worst of all, no one will enjoy the process).

 2) What the heck is going on in Annabelle’s life?  All this bossiness is not about us, it’s about her and something that she is dealing with outside of this exercise.  We are just watching it play itself out.

 3) Why didn’t I say anything?  I just watched it happen.  I could have gently voiced my opinion and helped the team work together.  I did nothing to improve the situation.

 4) The team that was laughing and enjoying the process came in second, but was really creative and had such a good time.  Unlike our team, they weren’t nervous or stressed and the goal was not the only thing they were thinking about.

So, in the end, the exercise was a way to help me learn how:

- to think about others and their opinions when collaborating;
- to consider what is behind team members' behavior and that many times the behavior has an entirely different underlying reason;
- to speak up if one person is dominating the group and help bring others in;
- and, to have fun and not always be about the end goal.