Dr. Mark Springston (pictured) has recently completed (spring 2005) research indicating that teaching team skills through team building games works!
Here's the scoop:
For his dissertation topic of "Teamwork And Technological Problem Solving" Mark conducted an experiment with 294 (99 teams) first year college engineering students at Virginia Tech.
This large group of students was divided into two smaller groups and on a Saturday morning in October 2004 I worked with half of the group (the "treatment" group) for 3 hours, leading them through a series of experiential team building activities (the kind of activities I teach at TeachMeTeamwork.com). The other half of the group (the "control" group) were offered a series of cognitive exercises (they didn't receive team training).
After lunch, the students (all of them) were placed in teams of 2, 3 or 4 and then assigned a technological problem to solve. It was challenging, taking four hours to complete, and it required team skills to do well. More importantly, the results of their efforts could be easily measured.
And the results? Dr. Springston reports that group sizes of 2 and 3 experienced little or no benefit from the "treatment" (the team training I provided). HOWEVER, the teams of 4 that received my training did EXCEPTIONALLY better than the groups of 4 that received no training. During the interview I did with him (see link below) Mark shares his observations as to why the groups of 4 did so much better. I suggest that teams of 2 or 3 people without team training can essentially force their way through the exercise to achieve positive results. However, when you get a group of 4 people who must work together, well, this is the "tipping point" - - a team this large can't perform at a high level without training. Teams of 4 people or greater that have received training in how to work effectively as a team (especially using experiential activities) have a huge advantage - - they are way more likely to perform at the highest levels.
Dr. Springston is quick to tell me that his research doesn't prove anything - - rather, the results do support his hypothesis - - investing a short period of time (3 hours in this case) teaching team skills through team building games helps teams perform at considerably higher levels.
Listen to the 50 minute audio interview with Dr. Mark Springston to get all the details of this study. Click on the link below to listen to the mp3 file.
Dr. Springston's full dissertation will be made available online through Virginia Tech within the next year (I'll let you know when it's available). Until then you can read the dissertation abstract here:
Are you ready to help your team function at a higher level? Teach them team skills through engaging and challenging teambuilding games. I've developed a series of multi-media training CDs to help you: Learn about them here.
Are you interested in the technological challenge the engineering students had to solve in teams in the afternoon of the study? Click here
Dr. Springston has a degree in "technology education" from Virginia Tech (as do I). Want to find out more about the field of technology education? Click here
Want to contact Dr. Mark Springston? You can reach him through the "people search" function at the Virginia Tech website (Mark is trying to avoid spam otherwise I'd post his email address here). Here's the link to the VT website.