Tim Smith, Eric Munsing, Liana Austin, Chris Carrick, and myself are doing an indepedent study on design team dynamics this semester. We met last night, and what we talked about turned out to be so useful that we all want to share it with more people (the most common refrain was "Man, I wish we'd talked about this before the start of (insert-our-last-project-here)!" followed by "This should be required reading for (choose one of: UOCD, Design Nature, POE, incoming freshmen, Expo)."

Topics covered were presentations, email, dialogues, and specification sheets, though the talks we had ranged over far more topics than the mechanics of those four modes of communication. Notes on the evening and our readings are at http://designteamdynamics.blogspot.com
, or ask one of us what's going on. I'd particularly love to hear what people think of the questions Tim brought up on dialogue (cooperative talking where everyone becomes observers of their own perspective, as opposed to discussions where people try to "win" by making everyone agree with their perspective).

Tim's questions:

  1. Peter Senge (in his book "The Fifth Discipline") likens team dialogue to "being in the flow" - like a jazzy musician or a basketball player. Is this something you've experienced in a team?
  2. Do we interact as colleagues at Olin? Is there a perception of hierarchical meritocracy? Does that - and should it - color our discussions of teamwork?
  3. Are we exposed to dialogue at Olin? What can we do to try to integrate this kind of team consciousness into the Olin curriculum?
  4. How do you encourage people to suspend their assumptions? How do you practice suspending assumptions? Do you think you're comfortable with it?

I love my independent study group. They're making me think about things that I've never had time to consider before.