How you exercise without knowing…

I am sorry to disappoint you if you thought this was going to be a blog about how you are becoming the next cover model for sports illustrated. Because it is not.  It is actually about working in groups! YAY!

Many students complain about “group projects”. And sometimes, business and communication students get teased because there is a lot of group work the program. The teasing comes from the idea that group work is “easy” or not “real” work.

Well, if you are one of those students that constantly have group work, you know it is no walk in the park; it’s more like a sprint through The Amazon. That is a metaphor, of course, we are still not becoming swimsuit models. Back to group work, which can bring a lot of complaining and whining about how “miserable” it is and how you can’t believe your faith is not just in your hands, but also, in the hands of strangers.

I am not here to bum you out, so here are 6 concepts that are exercised in groups that you may not realize:

  1.  People skills. Think about all the personalities you’ve had to learn to work –or at least tolerate– with. Think about all the different styles of work ethic, communication, writing, presenting, and thinking. How many of these people would you have actually chosen to work with on your own? But realize how much you learned about those people –that you might have never met– and their differences from yours.
  2. Trust. Because group work doesn’t give you a choice. Your grade depends on the group effort as a whole, so whether you like it or not, you have to trust these people– or at least pretend to.
  3. Malfunction. Yes, unfortunately, projects don’t always go as planned, actually, they almost never do. Whether it is “technical issues”, “people issues”, or if you still have a dog who eats your homework, you learn you have to accept that things did not turnout as planned.
  4. Dependability.  Yes, after the malfunction, you realize that people are still depending on you… which introduces…
  5. ” The Bounce Back”. You and your group have deadlines. So, after the malfunction and realizing you are being depended on, you learn you have no time to cry into a bowl of ice cream. Instead, you turn into a mixture of Usain Bolt and Einstein to come up with that part of the project that took you 6 hours to do, in 1.
  6. Flexibility. Let’s face it: group members never have the same schedule and sometimes not all members are in the same time zone. So you learn to wake up a little earlier to join a group call, through Bluetooth, in your car, on your way to work, squeezing in breakfast and listening to the news.

And As frustration heightens, time ticks and teammates burn out, you finally get it together and you turn in your group project. In a perfect world, you have revised it 3 times, but realistically, you got lucky if you went through it once. At the end of the projects there are all these things you wish you would have done or great ideas you think of after and most of the times you don’t believe it was not your best work, but “it is something”. And strangely, you find you are still happy and even a little proud. Maybe it is because you are done and you don’t have to talk to those people again. Maybe because you learned how to create a survey or uncovered great research. But maybe, it is also because you learned to overcome a whirlwind of experiences. In which case you find that even your “not the best’ work, might just be the work you are most proud of!  And maybe, you also find that person you could not wait to never talk to again, is not so bad after all.

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4 Responses to How you exercise without knowing…

  1. Elia Sanchez says:

    Hi Erika,

    You make key points about what it takes to work with a group. I think that the expectation going into the initial group chat is that everyone is going to get along and just make the group work happen. That would be the most ideal situation. However, as you mentioned in your blog, being in a group is no walk in the park. Unfortunately, while everyone that is part of a group may have a common goal, what is difficult is the inability to measure just how committed each group members is to the project at hand. That unknown factor is what put the people skills, trust dependability and flexibility to the test. As communication management students, we have learned the importance of effective communication is just about every setting that we can think of. I am confident that all that we have learned will allow for u to be the most effective group contributors in every setting.

  2. Jim Tanner says:

    Erika,

    Great post on the difficulties and rewards of group work. There are skills learned from these group projects, and sometimes they’re learned the hard way, but that’s they way much of the world work.

    And since we’re all here after a long hard summer, we must have survived another semester. I know I’ve learned things through the process and from the people I’ve worked with.

    Great post!
    Jim Tanner

  3. Diane says:

    The group projects at USC have made such an impact on how I show up in the world. I am so much more clear with my needs than I used to be. I realize it impacts a team more if I struggle and don’t speak up than if I raise the white flag. Also, I have come to know myself so much better. I can lead a team. But I can also be the glue or the specialist. I have utilized my team experiences to learn new skills, knowing I have an amazing safety net of supporters behind me. Truly, being in a team for projects has taught me the value of tribe. I am very grateful.

  4. Atif says:

    Erika,

    What a great post about group work and how impactful it is in the real world. You make great points on group work. It is also difficult when you have individuals in different time zones and making sure to work around those challenges, I’ve become a pro at subtracting two hours, adding an hour and while in Texas also living on Trojan Time! Having open communication is imperative and this program has helped me hone my group skills even further and learn to appreciate diversity in ideas and styles even more.

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