How to: develop creative teamwork

By S. Emory Hiott | July 28, 2023

America’s workplace is riddled with collaboration efforts to accomplish projects. Many corporate offices now have large spaces in the center of a room for employees to plug in and work instead of sitting in cubicles or offices to invite more collaboration. It’s clear why this is too, it’s because collaboration brings success. 

There is a lot of learning that goes into working with people who have different knowledge and strengths than you when expected to achieve a common goal. Refining one another through the process produces some amazing results. It’s Proverbs 27:17 coming to life “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” NIV. God built us for community, so it’s not unusual to encounter triumph when we operate in that design. 

Emory Hiott speaks at a CSU dinner honoring international students.

A few years ago, Dr. Valerie Sessions and I wanted our students to experience the beauty of what this can look like when different skill sets come together to accomplish a task. What we’ve learned has exceeded our expectations. Valerie teaches computer science. I teach marketing. Other than this class, our two majors rarely coincide with one another. The students are in different courses, different classroom spaces, and even hang out on different areas of campus.  

Armed with this knowledge, as well as knowing how these majors complement each other on projects, Valerie created a class called Creative Teamwork which is made up of computer science and business majors. The students have a real client who has a goal in mind that they need help achieving. We mainly have assisted missionaries all over the world with businesses and projects they are leading, but when COVID hit, we had to pivot plans.  

Our students that semester worked together to plan and host a virtual conference. In addition to that, they used the conference to bring awareness and raise funds to help feed our nurses who were working the front lines at a local hospital. We typically include an element of travel in these classes because  nothing brings people together like experiencing something for the first time together! Students have put together virtual reality experiences in Guatemala, developed marketing plans for educational facilities in China, seen the supply-chain firsthand from coffee farms to coffee shops, and this year will get to create a better retail and shopping experience for a Kenya-based leather goods company. The projects our students have tackled and the camaraderie that forms from these classes have been special to experience. 

Seven Tips to Reach across the Aisle and Collaborate 

  1. Find a discipline, person, or organization that has different strengths than you do.
  2. Speak to them about any common interests you may have to start building a relationship.
  3. Once a common ground is found, discuss ways you can come together to enhance that common ground experience for others.
  4. Develop a course, plan, or simply some objectives to accomplish a goal.
  5. Define how you will communicate as a team and how often.
  6. Revisit and reevaluate plans or objectives regularly.
  7. Celebrate accomplishments!

Emory Hiott is an instructor of business in the Nielsen College of Business.