Synergistic Serendipity

“You’re going to be working in groups.”

I’m sure everyone’s heard that phrase many a time, whether in high school or university. Sometimes instructors want something a little grander than what one person can put together. Other times, they just want to stir things up, maybe conduct their course con brio. But whatever the case, it’s always an exciting time.

From my time secondary education, I expected groupwork experiences to be a sort of camaraderie-filled experience. Everyone knew each other at my school; there were about a hundred people in each grade, and we were in general a tightly-knit group that expected at least competence from each other. We relied on each other for both ability and responsibility.

University group projects, as you might imagine, were an exciting time for me.

disaster

My various struggles during business courses at a certain nearby school were awkward at best, and delirious at worst. I had to work with people whose backgrounds were radically different from mine, but no, that wasn’t actually the issue — more importantly, they often barely cared about the project in question, or had rather interesting ideas. There was little commingling of minds or exchange of information; fairly often, I had to wrangle together my own thesis just days before the due date, as well as undertake the grueling tasks of checking for instances of plagiarism (of which there are many, I am sorry to say).

Thankfully, the TED talk was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

fresh air

It’s probably the first time, I feel, that one of my university project groups has really worked with a reasonable amount of cohesion. For the first time, I was able to simply contribute instead of aggressively oversee; indeed, there were some very strong personalities in my group, which I thought was ultimately positive, for both the project and myself.

For the TEDtalk, I felt that each of us was able to bring several unique perspectives and skills to the table. Though I initially slightly balked at the opposition some of my ideas received, I welcomed it openly after realizing what was happening, and joined the discussion with my own candid challenges. I had to liberally compromise when my views of what we should have been doing were radically different from my collaborators’, and I’m sure the same notion occurred to my peers. Some in my group excelled at organization, others at brainstorming, and yet others at enforcing. I was personally happy to pick up, work-wise, much of the detailed slack — creating citations, amending grammar and style errors, and general cleanup of the presentation deck. I was also very incisive and particular about many of the research-related specifics.

We effectively and efficiently exerted ourselves as a team.

fellowship

I definitely walked away from the TEDtalk project feeling like I had done approximately a quarter of the work, more or less. It’s not necessarily about the actual physical work either, but the amount of brainpower devoted; for once, the project was synthetic and not monotonic.

Whatever the intention, I thought the project was very enjoyable for once, especially for something necessitating groupwork. I learned a few new things about interpersonal collaboration as well, so I think that’s good enough.

(Presenting on the fly was an adventure as well, largely due to the fact that script usage was heavily discouraged. I think myself to be fairly adept at script-writing, but memorizing is a lot of work, so I had to pick up a new trick – the fact that you can make more effective PowerPoint slides to jog your memory as well as emphasize your points. That’s very neat, and really useful and effective. It helped me out a lot.

But elaborating on that would probably take another entire blog post.)

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