Teamwork and Conflict Resolution

Working in teams is one of the most important skills for your professional, public and private life. In art school there are very few occasions for teamwork and alumni often consider this a gap in their preparation.
You learn about teamwork through practice, but let’s go through a few general ideas and a couple of exercises.

Disclaimer: this session may sound cheesy and corporate. 

Conflict Resolution

While working with other people conflicts will inevitably emerge. They are necessary, and need to be resolved not avoided.

What are the possible outcomes in a conflict?

-Ignore — We could put off doing anything at all. Conflict aversion, postponing.

-Win-Lose —We may choose to exert control and “win” over our opponent.

-Lose-Win —We may choose to acquiesce and “give in” to the other person.

-Lose-Lose —We could agree on a compromise, where both parties give something up.

-Win-Win —We could choose an option where those involved in the conflict work together to discover a win-win solution—a collaborative solution.

What are some causes of conflict* in a collaborative environment?
*assuming that team members have a general common interest (like we do in this class)?

And what are some of the solutions?

>Differences – Creative differences, cultural differences, different values and assessments, in art, game design, politics there’s rarely one right solution, only different paths.

>Communication – or lack of thereof, different access to information

>Interdependency – shared responsibility, different levels of perceived contribution, people picking up the slack

>Structure – logistical issues, working at distance, time constraints, organizational issues can exacerbate disagreements

>Bad actors – one side feels there is nothing to lose by arguing, or doesn’t feel vested to maintain the relationship (toxicity), there is an pre-existing interpersonal conflict, or an unrelated problem affecting the dynamic (bad mood, cat died etc). This is rare at school, always assume good faith.

Once a conflict emerges there can be *emotions* involved, and it can get messy.
But here’s a step-by-step to approach a possible impasse:

AGREE – start by identifying a shared interest in the situation

IMPACT – describe how the situation is affecting you

RESPECT – acknowledge importance of other person in the situation

REQUEST – what do you need to move towards a resolution?

Game: Classify

Our brains are wired for bias. We all tend to classify and stereotype each other. Usually this type of classification is subjective, unhelpful, and can be unfair and discriminatory. This ice-breaker game is about finding unexpected commonalities and unpacking different types of diversity.

Split into teams of 6 to 10 people.

The goal is to discover three ways to classify yourselves into two subgroups containing approximately the same number of people (6).

Then try to find three subgroups containing approximately the same number of people (2).

The criteria used to classify can contain only positive characteristics (foods we like, the different hobbies, etc).

Game: Voting

Sometimes consensus doesn’t emerge organically and your options are not always binary choices to subject to majority voting. This is an intro to approval and ranked voting.

What are the most important games/series among the ones below?

World of Warcraft
Super Mario Bros
The Sims
The Grand Theft Auto Series
Sim City
Guitar Hero
Pac Man
Metal Gear Solid
Space Invaders
Street Fighter

Let’s see who has an argument for the most important game?

Class ranks top 10 games ever by approval voting:
vote for all the ones you’d be fine with in the top 10.

Class ranks top 10 games by ranked voting:
write down your top 10 in order.

Game: collaborative drawing

Groups of 4-5.

One person in each team starts by drawing a shape or outline.

After 5 seconds the drawing is then passed to the next team member who must add to the drawing, (I’ll shout CHANGE) and so on.

The goal is to produce the best drawing.

Did your team draw anything recognizable?
How did team members work differently on this task?
Did the first drawer determined more than the others? Does it relate with working in groups?
Did somebody hijack your idea?

Do it again but you have 15 seconds each and you can talk.

Game: Stupid gadget company

This is a game about concept combination, design by committee, brainstorming, consensus, voting systems.

Split in groups of 6.

Each player writes down an object/product (anything man-made) on a slip of paper and puts it in a paper bag. They are not secret, make sure they are not repeated or too similar to each other.

Draw two slips: your goal is to come up with the best, more innovative way to combine the objects into a new product.

Brainstorm: elect a secretary or somebody writing down ideas or half ideas, as they emerge, go with free associations.

Do it for other new 2 pairs combinations.

Decide by consensus which one is the best idea, go around and make sure all team members have a say.

Elect a salesperson and pitch your group’s best idea to the class.