These weird tricks will make group work better

Apr 25 2014

Ugh. Group work. We all know the drill. Everyone is in the same class, for the same reason, and is forced into a group to work on the same project for a grade. One person usually takes the lead and does most of the work, and everyone else is fine with that because, hey, you’ve all got pretty much the same skills anyway and nobody cares that much.

This is not even close to the experience I had working with my group at Reese News Lab this semester.

Three months ago, I was placed into a group with three other undergraduate students with the goal of creating some sort of World-of-Warcraft-style political game.

I didn’t know anyone else in the lab. I was a newbie, and I assumed most other people had experienced a semester there before. But I loved politics, and I was ecstatic about being put on the political project! These veterans could help me gain my bearings, and I would work as hard as I could to contribute my best.

There was only one problem: They were all new, too.

Wait, what? Cue group panic. We had no idea what we were doing!

Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be no problem, and we were working in the right direction in no time. Starting off with the typical “get to know you” questions, we heard about each others’ majors, which year in school we were, our hometowns and a few random facts. When I’ve worked in groups before, this is about the extent to which you get acquainted with your fellow classmates. You do everything you can on your own, meet outside of class for a few minutes if you grudgingly have to, and that’s about it.

This was not the case with Team Warcraft. I found myself partially excited to get to work at 10:00 on Friday mornings to meet with my friends and discuss our product. We were high-fiving each other when we walked in and out of the lab because it just kind of seemed appropriate. Instead of small talk about majors and classes, we were demanding that we see pictures from each others’ life events and talking about our dating lives (or lack thereof). This group work experience was very different, but I can’t quite pinpoint the exact reason why.

Maybe it was because this is our job. We all willingly applied for this internship at the lab and, for the most part, knew what we were getting into. Sure, you know what you sign up for when you’re taking a class, but we weren’t being forced to be there.

Maybe it was because there weren’t many boundaries. Come up with a product that is desirable, feasible and viable, and present it in a five-minute pitch on April 11. The possibilities were abundant, and coming up with ideas about our product was incredibly exciting!

Maybe it was because we truly needed each other. I learned a great deal from my peers, and each others’ different skills and experience with coding, research, startup knowledge, graphic design and in other areas were essential to go through the process of forming our product and pitch.

Maybe it was because we were actually creating a unique idea and had something to believe in together. We weren’t making a cookie-cutter Power Point to present to a class where we would regurgitate facts we read in a textbook, just like everyone else would be doing. Team Warcraft was working on a different project than other groups. We envisioned a mobile application political strategy game: Capitol Quest, a role-playing game where you assume the role of a North Carolina politician and compete against others to pass bills, earn political capital points and gain power. Capitol Quest is our figurative baby.

Maybe it was simply that we all clicked and got along well.

No matter what the reason, I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with those three people for the past few months. We became great friends as we created something unique together in our spot in the back corner of Reese News Lab, and it was an amazing experience. Team Capitol Quest has a special place in my heart.

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