Blog, TC 2019

Problem Solving in the Collaborative Process

Working collaboratively can be inspiring and challenging at the same time. Working in a transcultural group, in which you don’t share the same mother tongue and have different approaches to work processes and ethics can be even more demanding. Thus, the questions on how to deal with idea exchanges, defining roles, group dynamics such as communication and feedback culture and how to manage expectations are crucial to talk about in advance.

The students each discussed a set of problems or challenges they might face in working together and tried to come up with different solutions. Some approaches were a little more playful than others.

The left column defines a potential problem, while the right column suggests a possible way to deal with it.

Challenge/Problem  Possible Solution
When do we define tools, before or during producing? The question is hard to answer generally. The times to define tools differ for each project or discipline. It might be best to just try out new and different tools; ask yourself what you can do and what you want to do.
How to deal with and avoid being the “Fall Guy” when taking responsibility and directing other persons of the group. How can you avoid for people feeling insulted, when someone takes the lead in a group? It is key to define the roles at the beginning of the project work and to define what you want as a group. Communication is crucial.
How to deal with low energy and lack of motivation; When nobody would take over to lead the group and produce ideas and the group ends up with a random topic with which nobody feels committed? Take more time for brainstorming, find different brainstorming tools, split up the group.
How does one balance his or her engagement in the group between others? How do I leave space for others to engage and don’t get caught up too eagerly? Depends on the specific project. Try to find out what’s best in your specific group and project, what is your need? Set goals and deadlines as a group. Set out and step back from a group discussion and exchange at a later time to come back together later again. Take time for yourself.
How do your set roles? Just do it. 
Structured process till death vs. freedom of thinking. Trust and honesty in the working flow/mode. Deciding on a good structure can result in surprises. Defining certain goals is desirable but being open for other needs that come up during a process as well.
How do you establish sensitivity for emotions. At the beginning and the end of a meeting or work day, everyone checks in and out; everyone can say how they feel like. This leaves room for current emotional states of every person whitout disturbing an ongoing discussion. If one feels overwhelmed it is okay to step away from doing and producing for a certain time.
How to deal with a lack of ideas? Google, dance, rethink the starting point, sleep over it,  eating and contemplating (let your mind float away and do the work for you).
What if I am not able to promote my darlings? Stay open for new darlings. The group needs to listen to quiet people too. Scream or get better in PR. Change the group.
How do you deal with frustration? Dance, cry alone ( or together), get a coffee. Separate yourself from the group, because frustration is a personal thing. Name it, articulate it, as soon as possible: the group needs to know about it to find a constructive way to deal with frustration. It is also important to point it out as a need and not an insult.
What if one has a strong will to express ones opinions? Talk with mentor or moderator, listen.
What if there is an imbalance between discussions/research and output? Define a time management; how much of research and production do we need? Kill your darlings.
Conflict of strong opinions. Talk over it, discuss, be specific, be open to negotiate.
What if people miss out on discussions? The makers decide.
How do I contribute my personal ideas, style? What if they clash with the ideas of the remaining group? Find common points and let the group find the connections so the ideas can become new ideas. Rethink your ideas, contrast them to the group ideas.
How do we find common ground and how can we be sure we understand each other? Give examples and make the other repeat, what they said mean.
Let go of ego. Listen to yourself. Limit yourself and let others question you as well questioning yourself.
What if you’re not on the same wavelength? Stop talking, write your needs down instead for once.
What if you are not on the same enthusiasm level? Do breaks and push yourself into the project.
How do I deal with the fear from stepping out of my comfort zone? Experiment and try. Try also not to be so serious. Set deadlines: a push to do something sometimes helps to outsmart yourself.
How can the group be a place of pleasure and not obligation? Trust each other. Search for fun and pleasure outside of the working environment. Do more – Learn more. 
How can I disagree on something in a constructive way? Be honest. Give an alternate example, idea.
How can we overcome language barriers and understand each other better? Paraphrasing: repeat what you might have understood from your opposite.