By Brianna Anderson
The Effective Team Dynamics Initiative is excited to announce the launch of our new podcast series, “The Whole Elephant.” This project showcases the work of the ETDI, helping students, faculty, and staff learn how to best work and thrive together in teams. Headed by Dr. Mary-Lynn Realff and now in collaboration with national and international partners, the Effective Team Dynamics Initiative provides a framework for bringing together the strengths and perspectives of different team members and creating innovative solutions to team-based problems.
We spoke to the show host, Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Lee Hibbard, about the inspiration and plans for this new series. Read on to learn more about this exciting project.
What was the inspiration for the name “The Whole Elephant”?
The name comes from a turn of phrase our collaborating professor and fearless initiative leader Dr. Mary-Lynn Realff used in conversation when she was explaining the Effective Team Dynamics initiative and how it appears to people. It became a useful metaphor for the purpose of the podcast and social media approach to trying to bring together a large and multifaceted project, and then further became an interesting metaphor for teamwork as a whole, and the idea of bringing together different perspectives to work together as a unit, to perceive the whole elephant, as it were.
What kinds of topics do you plan to explore in the podcast’s first few episodes?
The first few episodes of the podcast are focused on providing an overview of the initiative and how it’s been adopted by different departments and programs at Georgia Tech. The first episode is a conversation with Mary Lynn about the impetus of the initiative, the different programs it engages with across campus, and how it’s been expanding over time. The next two episodes are interviews with two gentlemen who collaborated with Mary Lynn, Dr. Merrick Furst and Dr. Warren Goetzel. Dr. Furst is one of the authors of a recent book on innovation through team building called The Heart of Innovation: A Field Guide for Navigating to Authentic Demand. Dr. Goetzel leads a team with the Office of Information Technology on campus as the Director of Digital Learning.
What are the advantages of using the podcast format to discuss effective team dynamics and ETD’s work?
The biggest advantage is the opportunity for conversation. Like any other interview format, it’s easy to get answers to questions, but what I like about the structure of having a podcast host and then guests coming to speak on their work is the chance for that guest and the host to bounce off of each other and share expertise and insight in a more extemporaneous format. In a lot of ways, podcasts are also a very accessible method of sharing information about in-depth and complex concepts, be it through the audio medium itself or by sharing access to a transcript people can read. Since ETD’s entire premise is based in collaboration also, the chance to attempt to model and demonstrate some of the principles ETD explores is a great feature of a conversational medium like podcasting.
Podcasting is often highly collaborative. What have you learned about team dynamics from podcasting?
Scheduling is everything. That’s the biggest takeaway of most collaborative work I’ve engaged with in my life, but especially when dealing with trying to organize even just an hour to set time aside and record a conversation, finding that time is always a challenge. But it goes to show how much Mary Lynn practices what she preaches, so to speak. Her flexibility and grace when it comes to accounting for last-minute technological issues and coordinating time to work together have been invaluable. Adding to that the importance of collaborative informative conversation, and I think what I’ve really learned is that so much of team dynamics is about bringing together people’s stories and determining how they interweave together along lines of topic and theme. No matter what a person’s level of expertise may be, there’s always value in sharing perspectives across different levels of experience.
What do you hope listeners will take away from the first episode?
To check out ETD in more detail, of course, first and foremost. To consider the interplay of different team dynamics in their day-to-day experiences and how teamwork impacts their lives in professional and personal spheres. Most importantly, to look at the experiences they’ve had, how they’re impacted by the people around them, and how they can consider those stories from the point of view of working together and learning to collaborate. A lot of times, it’s difficult to do that without the right tools and language to explain and describe the experiences a person has been through, and things like ETD help provide that language and share a useful toolkit for expressing and growing through teamwork.