Team 2.0: The Sleeping Phoenix

At Olin, we are encouraged to “do-learn”. Through our courses, we demonstrate our understanding in a concrete manner, through grades, demo-days, papers, etc. Another area where we are encouraged to “do-learn” is teamwork. Teamwork is one of the most practical aspects of the Olin education; understanding teamwork is very important in the real world. However, Olin does not provide explicit feedback methods for teamwork.

The effectiveness of a team has an implicit impact on the grade the individuals receive on a project, but grades do not measure group understanding. As a result, most Oliners view teamwork from a highly individualistic perspective, leading to inequalities in individual effort and individual benefit from any particular project.

Teamwork at Olin is far from ideal, because we are not directly addressing and learning about being a part of an effective team. This is one issue which Team 2.0 is trying to address.

Oliners enjoy pursuing many interests simultaneously, and developing real results in those interests. As a result, we search for ways to do as much as we can, by surpassing our limitations (lack of time, energy, etc). However, in moments of self-doubt, one might ask: How much can I really accomplish? This thought arises because we know that we as individuals are limited; there is a limit to the amount of effort that any individual can spend, for biological, physical, and psychological reasons. Some of us deny this and push even harder, which often results in “burn out”. Some of us accept this and settle in the few things we know we can accomplish, rationalizing our other desires into oblivion.

Team 2.0 is a pursuit of a third perspective. What if our goals were shared with others, and other people were spending their efforts on the same things we were? Could we overcome the limitations of the individual?
This is where teamwork comes into play. Over history this has occurred naturally during periods of great progress. One example is the Renaissance. In 14th century Italy, a community of expert artists poured out masterpieces more consistently, and over a shorter period of time, than at any other period of time in the history of western civilization.

Team 2.0 is an attempt to achieve such collaboration, a place where “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”.

In Spring 2011, the first iteration of Team 2.0 was attempted. A group attempted a novel engineering project, fueled by intrinsic motivation, but lacked the resources to complete the project. From this, a key insight was that resources are paramount in any group effort.

In Fall 2011, the second iteration of Team 2.0 was attempted. From our experiences earlier, we determined that it would be appropriate to start a club in order to have greater access to resources (primarily money).
The club would also have a “procedure” for producing insight relative to our goals: using group ideation, develop ideas for non-engineering projects, rapidly complete the projects, and iterate. The goal was to gain insight having completed many projects over a short period of time, and so begin to understand the necessary conditions for the existence of the “ideal team”. This method was limited because it depended heavily on individuals’ intrinsic motivation.

Ultimately, individuals gained insight proportional to their motivation. This resembles the typical degeneration of teams at Olin. This method had as many flaws as the natural progression.

Now is the time to discuss a new approach to Team 2.0, and reawaken our “phoenix”. We will be meeting on Sunday, April 8th to discuss thoughts, ideas, and actions, in relation to this pursuit. Please join us. Hopefully we can combine our individual perspectives to make an idea which is greater than any of our thoughts alone, and move closer to an ideal experience, for ourselves and for the Olin community.

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