If teams are a main source of support when navigating ambiguity, how do we help them succeed?
Relationship to Ambiguity
One idea that has emerged recently in our teaching is the importance of trust in the context of ambiguous challenges. As educators, our goal is to encourage students to step outside their Comfort Zone, and venture to the outer limits of their Learning Zone. When we build trust, we create a friendly, familiar tie to the Comfort Zone. This creates confidence in facing ever-greater degrees of ambiguity.
A really important source of trust is having a strong, effective team. Ambiguity is definitely a team sport! Just like with deep-sea ocean diving, you wouldn't ever attempt to dive to the ocean floor on your own — you need a team to get there.
If teamwork is such an essential component in navigating ambiguity, we need to help set teams up for success.
One tool we've used before, both in our own personal practice and with our students, is something called a Team Dashboard. It's both an activity and a routine practice.
The idea is that there are a set number of dashboard elements that your team checks in on at a regular basis. These can be calibrated based on the team and the project; see the example below.
Each team member writes their individual thoughts on post-it's either ahead of time or at the start of the meeting. Then when everyone's ready, individuals go through and share each of their post-its, putting them up on a wall or whiteboard to build a team shared visual.
The team can have conversations as they go along, or at the end when everyone has shared, whichever feels most organic. The point is to use this for alignment, calibration, and discussion.
It's not completing the team dashboard that's most useful, but rather the act of going through it as a team and using it as a discussion tool and a self-awareness moment.
It gives space and a container for difficult conversations sometimes, as well.
This can also be a great tool for coaches / teachers to get a pulse on teams and know where to begin a conversation.
Design Abilities Used
The whole point of this exercise is creating a mechanism to be able to communicate directly and clearly with your teammates. It's also an opportunity not just to express your own thoughts and feelings, but more so to listen and learn from your teammates. This tool often forces a team to synthesize and align on an approach by looking at the often differing experiences of individual team members.
This activity was originally used in Stanford's Design Garage class taught by David Kelley, Nicole Kahn, Perry Klebahn, and Bill Burnett.
Design Abilities Used
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