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What’s different about this team building approach?

A lot of team building workshops feel like a temporary escape from the workplace, after which everyone returns to the same old grind. But team building that lasts is about more than tug-of-war and trust falls. It’s about improving group dynamics on a daily basis, and learning how to relate to each other differently. Ethnographers are trained to immerse themselves in daily social interactions and build rapport through empathy so they can understand a culture and successfully navigate within it. This workshop helps teams think like ethnographers, to understand the importance everyday interactions, to appreciate themselves and their colleagues within their cultural contexts, and to be more thoughtful about the ways they relate to one another—to form lasting collaborations with productive outcomes.

How can my team benefit from Ethnographic Thinking?

By learning some of the methods ethnographers use, teams can see the world (and the workplace) through the eyes of their teammates—to understand their motivations, their personal logics, their needs, values, and emotions. From this deeper understanding of their colleagues, they can better empathize with one another and discover more productive ways to interact.

Who Should Attend?

Any team that needs to:

  • build trust;
  • break out of a silo-ed, constrained, or reductive mindsets;
  • identify shared values and goals;
  • overcome biases and assumptions;
  • find new ways to forge alliances;
  • disrupt rote processes and unchallenged orthodoxies;
  • understand the motivations and worldviews that drive behaviors.

How does it work?

Teams practice ethnographic methods like shadowing, observation, and interviewing (followed by exercises designed to interpret and apply what they’ve experienced) to internalize four core qualities of ethnographic thinking that are most useful for improving team dynamics:

  • CULTIVATING CURIOSITY—When curiosity becomes an inherent part of a team’s thinking, everyone is continually exposed to more and more ideas from many different perspectives. Over time a genuinely curious team will begin to discover new and unexpected connections between different ideas, and build even better new ideas inspired by those connections. A team culture that honors and rewards continual curiosity is able to break through rote processes, engage in more creative problem solving, and collectively build positive momentum in their work.
  • DEFERRING JUDGEMENT—By deferring judgement and integrating unfamiliar (and even uncomfortable) modes of thinking into their work, teams can escape the limitations of assumptions and organizational biases. They’re also able to cross-pollinate the most useful ideas between differing viewpoints by emphasizing alignments, constructing empirically-grounded positions, and dislodging organizational biases. This leads to more productive debates and more respectful interactions.
  • EXPANDING AWARENESS—By expanding awareness and opening up the senses to the unfamiliar, teams can spot unstated social cues and decipher the invisible cultural rules that drive behaviors. This allows them to better empathize with others by positioning their actions within cultural contexts. Understanding this context and how it shapes the worldview of others (both on the team and outside of it) can set the foundation for identifying shared values that resonate for everyone. The resulting familiarity and sense of common purpose helps builds trust and can pave the way for better collaboration.
  • LISTENING DEEPLY—By listening deeply to one another, teams can better understand what their teammates are saying beyond the words they share. It provides a channel for interpreting what other factors are influencing how they express themselves (e.g., the things they value, who influences them, what motivates them, what touches them emotionally). Learning to read the nonverbal cues people send while they converse, and interpreting the layers within them, helps teams learn to understand difference form bonds of mutual respect.

Why Ethnographic Thinking?

Ethnographers are trained to be continually curious, defer judgement, expand their awareness, and listen deeply. These are all essential skills for successfully understanding people and their cultural contexts. They provide ethnographers with the ability to build empathy and rapport with research subjects so that they can interact with them in the most respectful and productive manner. Together, they create a way of framing the world that can be applied to many different forms of interaction, including team dynamics. This workshop helps teams build those skills and internalize ethnographic thinking so that they can understand themselves and their organization in cultural terms; engage in more thoughtful interactions based on that understanding; and, produce more impactful deliverables because of both.

What’s the Schedule?

This workshop can be structured as a retreat (three sessions over three days) or as a course (four sessions, one per week, over the course of a month). Each session lasts approximately six hours. Location and content can be tailored to the specific needs of each team or cohort—please get in touch to discuss your needs).

What other details should I know?

The workshop is led by seasoned applied anthropologist Jay Hasbrouck, author of the book Ethnographic Thinking: From Method to Mindset, in conjunction with a staff of highly experienced professionals.

Pricing is per seat and varies depending on location, venue, and other factors. Again, feel free to get in touch with any questions by using our contact form.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a methods workshop, although research teams will find that developing their skills in ethnographic thinking is useful for their work as well. If you’re looking for training focused more specifically on ethnographic methods, please visit this page.