Stuck, Re-align, Unstuck – part 1 of our Team Culture series

In this article, we frame the problem that many creative teams face: that moment they seem stuck. Is it a creative block, or maybe misalignment of a highly creative group? How do you really spark breakthroughs making them a consistent part of team culture?

The air in the small meeting room was charged with some sort of strange energy. The kind of energy that mixes confusion, frustration, and lack of understanding of what actually caused it.

The group of six creatives were solving their brief. The deadline was tight. The right idea seemed to come and go like a fish that was touching the bait, but not really swallowing it. Nobody in the room could really understand why they couldn’t agree on what they were going for. The silence lasted for about half a minute and became awkward. Finally, one of the members looked around and admitted: Guys, I think we’re stuck.

I see this story happening quite often, and it isn’t about a creative block. The problem the group faced was not their inability to find a creative solution to a problem. It was more about silent disagreement between group members that hindered them from moving forward.

Such situations are extremely common: during these moments you might feel that your team is stuck and/or there is something in the air that you can’t really verbalize, but it definitely weighs upon everybody. On a positive note, it’s a sign that it’s the right time for a much needed team alignment session.

Time for a small task Turn on some music and focus for a minute or two. Think about these 3 questions:

  • What was the most exciting teamwork experience you had?
  • What was the worst?
  • What do you think made the difference?

Write down your answer in bullets on a post-it or on a piece of paper.

How do you spark team culture? A few month ago I reached out to the Hyper Island alumni network to see what problems they were facing implementing group dynamics tools at work. Most of responses I got suggested that co-workers rarely cared or understood the value of such activities, therefore, it was hard to install group methods and to boost team culture. Other ex-students would mention they didn’t really have the tools to explain the value in such activities. At the same time, co-workers are usually very enthusiastic about working in teams, being more agile and innovative. teaming The problem seems to be two-fold:

  • How might we explain the value of group dynamics activities (e.g., check ins, feedback, team alignment sessions, etc.)?
  • How might we create effective team culture whenever we need it (on a particular project or in general)?

One of the ideas we had was to create an easy to understand and use framework that would feel familiar and desirable to co-workers, even if they were new to working with group dynamics and team culture. All they need is a will to bring more agility and cohesion to their collective work. As our experiments suggest, small groups are willing to try and use such structured ways of team alignment.

Read the next part

Alex Ivanov is a strategic designer and facilitator, Hyper Island alumnus (Interactive Art Director 2013), and author of Team Canvas. As a designer, he is working with companies to create, define and validate minimal viable products. He likes working with flat, self-organized teams, and spends quite some time facilitating groups and mentoring startups.

This fall, Hyper Island will be running our 2 day Master Class Digital Acceleration that will change how you think about digital communications. Learn how to navigate through a complex business landscape, engage customers and expand your reach. The Master Class will be conducted in the USA, Sweden, UK and Singapore. You can find out more about it here.