I had a privilege of coaching an FLL Robotics team in the 2019 City Shaper Competitions. It's an amazing experience working with so many talented kids. I am lucky to get the Best Coach award which also encouraged me to share my experiences.
I was having a discussion with some of the team members about core values. The discussion was sounding very theoretical to them. With amazing coding and designing skills, they thought the team should do very well.
Considering their strength in math, I tried to explain in the language of math. Talent is something a team can't control. Team members are who they are just like family members. A good family figures out how to respect and celebrate the diversity of each other's talent. In a nutshell, I explained to them that talent of a team is like a constant for the team. It is what it is. You can't really change it in the span of your project.
TALENT FOR A TEAM IS A CONSTANT.
They nodded their heads and asked if team talent is a constant then why talented team don't always win?
I told them now we know constant in the equation of success. Is there any variable that could impact the results?
They understood the question but couldn't answer it. So I asked them, do you like to work in a team or you feel you can get done more alone?
Some of them said others slow them down. They can work much faster if they do it themselves.
Hmmm... I asked, do you see any variable here?
Yeah... They said a variable is teamwork. We are less efficient as a team but we are more effective individually.
Awesome! I asked them to hold on to this theory of variables. I asked if you are so talented, you must be cooking your food and driving to school all by yourself.
They thought I am being crazy and said we are too young to cook and drive.
I asked them to pause and think. What if your parents start thinking that you are slowing them down? They have to cook more food and spend time dropping you to the school. They do all this happily every single day - Am I right?
They said I was absolutely right. In a family, parents exhibit constant teamwork and leadership without thinking about it but when it comes to FLL teams we tend to become bit selfish. We don't appreciate the diversity of skills we all bring to the team. Sometimes we become arrogant and it impacts our team performance.
What do you think is variable in the equation of team success?
By this time they started to correlate discussion we were having about core values which included teamwork, inclusion, respect and a lot more. They said a variable must be core values.
CORE VALUES FOR A TEAM ARE VARIABLES WHICH CAN BE ADJUSTED.
I explained further that success is a product of a constant (Talent) and a variable (Core Values). Constant can not be changed, hence, the only way to improve the chances of a team's success is by fine-tuning variables just like what you do in the PID controller.
TALENT * CORE VALUES = TEAM SUCCESS
Kids agreed but they were still not sure if this variable is really that important, hence, I asked them to do some simple calculations. Let's assume 4 teams have a different level of talent by adding individual talent for each member on a 1-10 scale. As explained in the diagram below, I asked them to adjust the value of the variable i.e. Core Values to calculate relative success.
After doing these simple calculations they were amazed to see that it's not talent that matters the most to become successful. Team with least perceived talent can easily win. Core Values control the success of a team even if talent is important. They understood why teamwork and collaboration are so important. It's critical to leverage each other's strengths. It's extremely important to be patient and supportive just like good families do.
FLL encourages teams to work like extended families by focusing on core values. This learning is way more important than winning the competition. I am sure that many kids will be creating the most amazing robots someday but if they failed to understand how to use core values effectively, they may not have a lot of people around them to celebrate their success.
I wish all teams the very best for the next round. Have fun and spread core values by integrating those in our lifestyle.
- Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
- Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
- Impact: We apply what we learn to improve our world.
- Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
- Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
- Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!