Like all design environments, our eLearning ecosystem includes a range of job titles, skillsets, experiences, and personalities. Building a successful team takes more than bringing skilled individuals together—you also need to encourage collaborative team culture.
While some teams prefer expansive team building exercises, we take a budget approach to build the camaraderie and trust that encourages a truly collaborative environment.
This might seem obvious, but you need to encourage team members to work together. So we’ve adapted multiple models and theories into our workflow, including design thinking. Design thinking is often thought of as an innovative design process, but it also allows teams to build common ground as well as a shared vocabulary, tangible artifacts, and trust-based team culture (Gibbons, 2016).
On our team, each team member works with different programs. We make it a point to connect with each other regularly. This allows us to be aware of each other’s work, to pitch in when needed, and allows the cross-pollination of ideas throughout the team. It also helps us be aware of opportunities for growth for the team.
Standup meetings help a team know each other’s loads—whether or not we can interrupt or ask for help from someone—and make plans to discuss something in more depth at a later time. It’s simple: we meet for 10-15 minutes twice a week to discuss what we’re working on. Everyone stands to keep it short.
Find opportunities for professional development
Teams need to be aware of industry trends to stay relevant. We value professional development—Model eLearning developed out of this drive to be aware of industry and higher education trends.
We keep a Slack channel devoted to sharing articles and resources. We also attend training opportunities such as webinars and local training events, and we do research together to present at conferences. If you have any tips for sorting out the good webinars from duds (beforehand) we’d love to hear them!
Support each other
It’s easy to clock in, do your work, and go home. But it’s important to value the time and insight of other people on your team.
According to Dam and Siang (2018), in design teams “all team members should be encouraged to respect each other’s inputs, in order to dig deeper and to build upon each other’s findings, as opposed to trying to dominate and score with the winning idea as a solo effort.”
Keep an eye on each other’s work—don’t be obnoxious, but keep your pulse on what’s going on so you can jump in and help if necessary.
Impromptu problem-solving sessions
Spur-of-the-moment problem solving might not work for all teams, but we work in an open, collaborative environment. While we each have our own area, we feel comfortable messaging or walking to a coworker’s desk for help. This allows us to work together at a moment’s notice to find a solution. Note: this is where being aware of people’s workloads comes into play (see: Standup Meetings). If someone is busy, STAY AWAY!
Celebrate a job well done
You probably have some recognition system in place. Ours is fairly informal—if one or more of us finds a particularly good solution, we give a shout out to them and look for ways to incorporate exceptional work into the group’s processes.
Build relationships with one another
Building quality professional relationships takes time. And as a production team, we have tight deadlines. But rather than letting this make us high strung, we work to build relationships in the down time to make it through (Popcorn Thursdays help).
Take regular outings together
You might find it hard to take time away from work, but it doesn’t have to be an all-day event or far away to be meaningful. We’ve explored nearby attractions such as MSU Learning Hub, Jackson Makerspace, Menlo Innovations, and IKEA to inspire our design and workflow.
Similarly, our monthly eLearning Breakfast lets us catch up and discuss upcoming changes—all while enjoying breakfast cooked by someone on the team or at a local restaurant.
It doesn’t take a large budget or retreat to create a successful eLearning team. All it takes is each team member coming together to build relationships and support each other as they work together.
What does your team do to build relationships and support each other? Let us know!
Dam, R., & Siang, T. (2018). Design thinking: Select the right team members and start facilitating. Retrieved from Interaction Design Foundation.
Gibbons, S. (2016, September 18). Design thinking builds strong teams. Retrieved from Nielsen Norman Group.