Culture Hacking: Learning and Building Great Teams

(August 2012 update: this course was canceled, due to lack of enrollment. Perhaps the Early Fall quarter is close to invisible in the current UW course catalog system. Now we know.)

In August, Sue Kraemer and I will teach a course at UW Bothell titled Culture Hacking: Learning and Building Great Teams.

This course is in response to 2 emerging trends:

  • A desire for more effective teams, and a realization that much of what makes teams more effective is their behaviors and norms; their culture.
  • A realization that the landscape of universities, higher education, and the type of learning that occurs there is a rapidly changing, and a desire to find a mechanism to bring the student voice into this conversation.

These inspired Sue and I to create this course. Here is a description we are circulating for this course.

This course has 2 goals:

  1. Practice and learn how to create and maintain highly-effective teams. (hacking our team culture)
  2. Develop an idealized design for some or all of university-level learning, and propose experiments to try at UW Bothell. (hacking our learning culture)

How will this work? This is a seminar that will explore our learning and team cultures. It will be highly experiential, with you being taught and then practicing techniques that are known to help create and maintain great teams. It will be project-based, as you explore and co-create wild and creative ideas about how our learning and team cultures could be dramatically better for students, employers and society. We will have a dedicated room, so we have a creative collaborative space where we can post materials on the walls, leave work in progress on the tables, etc. We will have both a lower level course (B CUSP 131 E) and an upper-level course (CSS 390 D) that meet at the same time in the same room, in order to get a greater diversity of perspectives.

Why these topics? This course is an outgrowth of 2 separate threads: (a) a desire to bring more awareness and understanding of highly effective team practices to UW Bothell, and (b) the energy generated by the February 2012 UW Bothell Innovation Forum, and a subsequent 2-day March 2012 workshop at UW Bothell on Re-inventing Unversity-Level Learning. The March workshop had 46 participants from UW Bothell, UW Seattle, UW Tacoma, and industry discussing the dramatic changes that  our higher education system is undergoing, and envisioning new ways of being and acting in this space. Organizations like Khan AcademyCourseraUdacityedX, etc. are creating new business models and other ways to learn. Our learning system is changing.

This course is an opportunity for students to be a part of that change.

We will investigate two aspects in parallel:

Hacking Our Team Culture

  • Why do we need teams?
  • What does a great team look like?
  • How can you create and maintain a great team?
  • How does our current culture enable or disable our ability to perform in teams?
  • How are teamwork, creativity, and innovation related?
  • How can you identify and use the strengths of your team members?

Hacking Our Learning Culture

  • Why do we need courses and degrees?
  • Why are courses 10 or 15 weeks long?
  • What is the essential role of a professor?
  • Are degrees the best placeholder for reputation?
  • What about universities should be kept?
  • What is the essential value that Universities provide?
  • What about current Universities could be better done in another way?

What will you get from this course? A deeper understanding of and experience with practices and principles for working effectively in teams. An opportunity to help guide UW Bothell toward experiments for more effective learning.

What is the shape of the course? It will run from Monday, August 20, through Friday, September 7. August 20 and 21 will be 2 full 8-hour days of in-depth, experiential training in practices that help create and maintain great teams. The last day, September 7, will be a full 8-hour day of delivering and discussing the final products, and a debrief / retrospective to make meaning of the course. In between, the course will meet 4-5 days a week for 3-4 hours per day (exact schedule to be decided during the class).

Are you ready to explore, innovate, and co-create a new future for learning?

Our hope is to get a cross-section of students, staff and faculty to participate, so that they can create interesting visions of alternative designs for university-level learning.

By the way, I learned of the term “culture hacking” from Jim McCarthy, as described in Adam Feuer’s post. Venessa Miemis posted a related blog entry on Birth of a Meme: The Rise of Culture Tech, in which she suggests an alternate phrase: “culture tech”. Given the negative connotations that “hacking” has for many, the alternative phrase of culture tech may be less provocative (which may be either good or bad), and more connected to what are perceived as positive trends. Yet another topic for discussion.

About davidsocha

In autumn 2010 after spending 19 years working in a variety of software organizations as a programmer, architect, manager, teacher, ScrumMaster, product designer, change agent, and agile coach, I finally listened to what everyone had been telling me I should be doing and joined the University of Washington Bothell as an Assistant Professor in Computing & Software Systems. My interests are how to create and maintain great teams, particularly those in software development organizations. I am most interested in distinctions that dramatically increase the effectiveness of teams, such as systems thinking, design thinking, biomimicry, and human centered design. I am a pragmatist, a collaborator, and an optimist.
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