NetAppVoice: From The Mouths Of Babes: 3 Tips From Kids On Teamwork And Innovation

May 6 2014, 12:14pm CDT | by

by Michelle Plato

Although we can’t turn back the clock, we can still learn. And the best teachers on the toughest teamwork challenges can be… children.

The science fair of yesteryear has grown up—in a big way. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times as technology evolves, but young people today have a vast array of opportunities for inspiration, in addition to their traditional school curriculum.

The Tech Museum of Innovation, in Silicon Valley’s San Jose, is a science and technology museum with a mission. As well as its renowned, sensory-stimulating technology displays, every April the museum hosts “The Tech Challenge” for teams of tweens and teens. Joining together, the kids are faced with a scientific challenge with real world implications.

As a volunteer judge for this year’s challenge, here are three lessons I learned—from a child’s perspective:

1. Focus On The Goal, With Collective Team Spirit
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Working in teams is often challenging. (That’s especially true for young people, with little experience in the skills of team dynamics.)

One team shared that one of their teammates was missing, because that person didn’t participate in the project—they were “lazy.” When I asked how they managed the workload without that team member, they shrugged and said pragmatically, “We just made it work with our team.”

It hadn’t even crossed their minds to fail from being under-staffed.

2. Embrace Unfiltered Positivity
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Get energized about possibilities and stay true to you.

I found myself mesmerized by the amazing energy level of these young people. It wasn’t the excitement of the day’s event—which was to be expected—but that these teams of children were describing their journey with enormous shared enthusiasm. They explained in detail how much time they spent together, their brainstorming sessions, and how they changed their designs cooperatively.

All their efforts were aimed at achieving success. The spirit of teamwork was electric in their stories.

3. Persevere In The Face Of Adversity
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View failure as an opportunity to learn.

The bounce-back mechanism in the kids whose design didn’t fulfill the Challenge’s final test was instantaneous, and not much different to that of those whose designs succeeded.

These are common-sense principles we learn early on in life, in playgrounds and schools—we forget them at our peril. Participating in class projects, especially team science activities was fun and the outcome was still rewarding.

Ah, youth!

Learning Through Teamwork
Kids who participate in this program learn in a different manner than in your typical school environment: Teamwork is paramount to their success, regardless of whether their device ultimately performs as expected./>

During their journey from concept to design and final execution, they are—without knowing it—building valuable tools to take into their future, whatever vocation they may choose. Over the course of weeks and months, these young minds are being enriched with soft skills—such as the trust, teamwork and smarts represented in today’s popular business books.

They learn how to translate their thoughts into design, how to present their work, and what it’s like to take risks—and to learn from failure.

I had the privilege of experiencing the results of their efforts first hand. My involvement with teams of 10-to-12-year-olds ranged from being their first contact in the interview process, to the final moment on stage, demonstrating their design. Their collective anticipation, joy, and—in some cases—disappointment were palpable. I found myself struggling to keep a dry eye as I took the ride with them.

And I was learning too: That this is the core of teamwork.

The Bottom Line
After their final moments in the spotlight, I asked them, “Are you going to return for next year’s challenge?” Unanimously, without skipping a beat, the answer was, “Yes!”/>

I can’t wait to see what they build for next year’s Tech Challenge.

The next time you have a team dilemma, ask yourself: What would a young person do?


Michelle Plato is a senior marketing manager at NetApp, responsible for executive content production and engagement. She’s always in motion—especially when there’s music playing. What’s your take? Weigh in with a comment below, and follow Michelle Plato (Google+) @sjmisch (Twitter)./>

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Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes and author of The Soft Edge, has examined a variety of enduring companies and found that they have one thing in common: All of them live their values, which alongside great strategy and execution, allow them to fuel growth and weather hard times. He identifies Trust, Smarts, Teamwork, Taste, and Story as the five variables that make up this “soft edge.”
Image used with permission, courtesy: The Tech Museum media room./>

 
 

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