Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM): Teams Must Keep the F.U.N. In, Dysfunction Out

Got Communication? Equality in Exchanging Solutions is a Must.

For the good of the team, share your ideas.

In the shadow of the Florida Engineering Education Conference, I find my thoughts rolling back over the challenge expressed from the podium during the panel of engineers. The challenge: pulling all the system technical experts of the team together. This is a big frustrating challenge evidently from the number of times it was highlighted from the panel of system professionals.

We’ve all had the opportunity to work on a dysfunctional team.

Perhaps one of the experts on the team snatched the reigns and didn’t care to hear your idea. It could have been that a couple of you were like minded to jump into the task even though the team was saddled with a quiet loafer who lacked the communication confidence to pull their weight of ideas into the team dialogue to solve the problem at task. You could add fourteen other scenarios because you’ve been there and survived a disappointing experience on a team.

In the technology driven age of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), teachers shift from the textbook driven lesson to an improved hands-on discovery experience from bell-to-bell. But team dynamics is not an instinctive skill. Plus, high performing students have been trained to perform and compete on their own merits of solving the math equation or being the first to finish the bubble test with 100% proficiency.

Unraveling the threads of personal accomplishment that have been worn as a cloak of pride  is one tough task for the next generation of STEM teachers. Going back to “marketing basics 101” is one way to put the F.U.N in team accomplishments, while keeping the dysfunction out.

Got Communication? The Best Performing Teams Do.

The whole concept of a team is to combine ideas and resources. The etiquette of empowering each resource to share their solutions should be the thread that binds the team together. The expectation of etiquette to exchange their valued ideas is a must. Do you remember when our national mantra was “no child left behind?” The best performing teams leave no one behind.

My F.U.N. model represents the Fundamentals of Understanding Networking in a team. Communication, popularly labeled the weakest link in a team and organization, is the energy that fuels the outcome of getting to the finish line.

There is research to support the networking-leads-to-success outcome. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that collaborative groups who conversed easily with equal participation were more efficient at completing sets of given tasks. Their research demonstrated better results from the teams who communicated equally compared to the groups dominated by individuals.

For the good of the team, speak up and share your genius.

2 Responses to “Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM): Teams Must Keep the F.U.N. In, Dysfunction Out”

  1. Tom Shircliff says:

    Team performance is one of five main categories we use when planning our annual performance objectives for ourselves and employees. We measure ourselves against them at the end of the year. An excerpt from our rating criteria follows:

    Create a positive environment where people can excel. Foster a diverse culture where individual respect and enterprise-wide teamwork thrive. Build a learning organization that enables our employees to realize their highest potential. Clearly communicate messages that motivate and inspire action. Celebrate victories.

    — Build Organizational Talent
    — Align Performance for Success
    — Communicate with Positive Impact
    — Create an Inclusive Environment

    Each of the four bullets above have its own set of criteria. Would be happy to share more.

    Also, I encourage you to read and have your students read books by athletic coaches: John Wooden, Don Shula, Jon Gruden . . . there are many.

    In my professional career, the most successful pilots, space operators, and even business persons are those who have played team sports. A player has to know his/her position extremely well, but understand the roles of the others and depend on them to do their job, just as the others will depend on them. A team player lives in dynamic environment, starting with a game plan, but continuously assessing an ever-changing environment, making decisions for the sake of the team, replanning or redirecting on-the-fly. The same environment exists in industry, certainly the aerospace industry, both military and civil/commercial.

    STEM courses are the building blocks for preparing students for the technical career fields. However, students will be much better prepared and successful if they’re exposed to STEM in the dynamic business- and people- centered environment of industry.

    Middle line backers make the best fighter pilots. 🙂

  2. Kay Borglum says:

    Thanks, Tom. I absolutely agree with your observation that the most successful people are those who have played and understood the value of team sports.



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