Building a Team, a Clay Structure and a Carbon Pricing Program

February 2, 2017

By Aashna Aggarwal ’19

As I lifted my eyes from my art work, I saw everyone across the table carving intricate design patterns on their individual artworks as a contribution to the team totem pole.

Our Bass Connections team was relocated from the SSRI conference room to the Durham Arts Council clay studio on a Monday afternoon. It was not only the perfect escape from the Duke bubble but also an amazing opportunity to form bonds with our Bass Connections teammates. Having been around each other only in a classroom setting, it was a fun experience to play with clay with fellow students as well as professors.

Believe it or not, it was very important for us to come together and work on pottery to ensure that we successfully develop Departmental Energy Reports and an Internal Carbon Pricing Program for Duke over the next two semesters. It is easy to get good players together in the field, but it is a different story when they have to play as a team.

Bass Connections team

Our purpose at the clay studio was beyond getting our hands dirty and learning how to mold, it was about learning how to collaborate and getting to know each other better than we already did. Team spirit and a sense of community is built through informal interactions outside the usual environment to harness each member’s strength and help them improve on their shortcomings. It is statistically proven that team building boosts performance and helps the members develop communication skills and a comfortable work environment.

Excitement kicked in when we put our aprons on. Our task was to assemble a totem pole with contributions from each member. The rules of the game were simple. We had to choose a value that we believe plays an integral role in team dynamics and then use some clay to mold our thoughts into hand sculptures. Values that were most significant to us included honesty, trust, humor, ownership, cohesion, patience, fluidity and transparency. Together these attributes not only form the totem pole but also form our team.

Cohesion was a cylinder with all our initials on it, representing us as a whole, Patience was an hourglass that reminds us to be understanding, Fluidity was a goofy teapot representing the current amorphous yet active state of our project.

The process of assembling a totem included watching a demonstration of the process, creating a masterpiece and giving it to the managers for baking and glazing it. Drawing a parallel, every research process also has different stages to it: learning about a problem, doing ground research, conducting interviews and then analyzing the data to formulate best policies for implementation.

Humans have a tendency to dissolve their individuality in a group, but through this activity I learned how to seek strength in numbers, express ourselves individually and of course put together a beautiful piece of art.

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