• Mark Faulkner

Collaborate to break the ice..

Welcome week at Queens University Belfast - September 2018

Every year, at Queens University Belfast, the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have an intake in the region of 450 new students. The school recognizes that this is a major transition for students and has invested in a welcome and orientation programme to help students acclimatize to their surroundings, learn about the year ahead, and get to know one another. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to work with these young people who will become the future backbone of the technology sector in Northern Ireland and beyond.

My role each year is to facilitate some sessions with the single goal of ‘each student will know at least six people on their course by the end of the week’.

We can get to know each other better by working together collaboratively.

My approach to this challenge is to use collaborative games where students work together in teams to solve problems and design shared outcomes. I believe that we get to know each other faster and form stronger bonds when we are actively work together to solve a problem rather than trying to engage in small talk.

The first stage in team development is ‘Orientation’, or ‘Forming’ if you prefer the Tucker model. Orientation is a social, human stage where we try to understand the environment we are in, the people around us and the challenges in front of us.

During this stage our thoughts are filled with a mind-boggling mix of assumptions about who is similar to us, who is different to us, who we might work well with and who might frustrate us. In ‘Orientation’ we also experience a mixed bag of emotions about the challenges in front of us, from excitement, to fear and from confidence to uncertainty and everything in between.

We can make this process much easier and much faster by providing clear direction, giving people the opportunity to interact and work towards the achievement of aligned thinking and tangible goals.

We can get to know each other better by working together collaboratively.

We work together collaboratively much more effectively when we know each other better.

We work together collaboratively much more effectively when we know each other better.

In today’s world of ever accelerating change there is an expectation that we can spin up high performance teams immediately and dynamically move people from team to team with no impact on performance. Taking time to provide people with the opportunity to re-orientate is an often overlooked secret to accelerated team performance.

Collaborative team working is also critical to the success of our organisations when we consider that executive teams, boards and committees are indeed teams. Providing these teams with the opportunity to get to know each other better and re-orientate around the vision and values of the organisation can massively improve relationships, reduce conflict and lead to alignment.

Collaborative tools such as design thinking can be used to help re-imagine the future and dramatically improve strategic planning.

Mark Faulkner


Mark Faulkner People Development

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