Within the third semester the students of Karlshochschule International University approach two intensive weeks when working on their Introductory Company Projects, also well known as IPRO. During these weeks, the students work closely together in groups to fulfill the expectations and requirements by the different companies. The range of variety of companies is broad, which gives every student a good possibility to work on an interesting project. That these come with a great amount of workload is clear to everybody, who participates in the module IPRO. At this moment, the intensive weeks just ended and a feeling of relief is spreading through the university. Even after the finalization of the projects and the presentations, we know that IPRO certainly was a great first step in practical hand-on experience. Still there are some things worth reflecting in this blog post.
Working together in a team with students you barely know on a project with high expectations, such as IPRO, brings several issues alongside. These may either be positive or negative. This clearly does not count for every group, but at least for ours. Therefore, we would like to share some experience we gained from our IPRO project. Problematic challenges approached our group as if we were made for them. Not only internal, but also external. Obviously, it is always hard to work in a group with individual characters, you might not know very well. However, to work on a project, which is immensely important to some of us, makes the situation even more difficult. The additional time pressure only intensifies the situation. Values, such as trust, communication and responsibility should be a basis for an intense group work.
Needless to say, these values are easier expressed than put to action. As an example, we approached problems in open communication. Since we were not satisfied with the input of some of our group members, we had to communicate it to them. Under the pressure we had and the availability of the group members we were not able to communicate our concerns directly to the persons, who were responsible. Therefore, the communication solely was done indirectly via social media. That such a problem hardly could be solved without any direct communication to each other, should have been clear to us from the beginning. Nevertheless, we could not understand why some persons, who work in a group do not provide the same amount of work, which would be a common standard for others. To keep our group together and solve this internal issue we approached our coaches to help us. On quick response one of the coaches was able to assist us in this situation fortunately and together the whole group could openly communicate their concerns and problems. We learned how to accept various working standards and therefore how to divide tasks up differently. Our group was also able to include open communication as a basic value of everyone’s behavior. From this point in time onwards team members acted in a very tolerant way towards each other. Even though this problem needed a lot of effort and time to solve, we had to go on with working on the project continuously in order to keep up with our work expectations.
In any business and social environment and thus also at Karlshochschule there exist rules people are expected to follow. Some might be based on contracts or university regulations, such as not copying each other’s work. Moreover, in organizations as Karlshochschule International University there are also unwritten rules saying a lot about how people work together. Such social norms provide a harmonious environment not only for employees, but also for us (the students). For an organization combining many cultures and characters such guidelines are inevitable. Any action, which could therefore be interpreted as an infringement of existing rules or ethical standards, are considered as the willingness of a possible breach of rules by an individual. Our university, who promotes communication, fair play and working in a team therefore also needs to enforce the compliance of such rules. In a situation, where students are risking their work and their relationships with each other the university may have to intervene under certain circumstances in order to keep up the protective environment.
During the intensive weeks, our group scraped a border which would put not only our work at risk, but also the work of other groups. Although we did not have any bad intentions, the outcome of our actions still were tremendous. We acted irresponsible and mindless when we took a picture of the early stages of the work, the other group working on the same topic as we did, had achieved so far. Our apologies go by all means to the other group and to any participant of IPRO, who felt badly influenced by our actions. We do regret overstepping the border of shared trust and teamwork within our project. Even though we do not always actively think about the significance of shared values, we deeply know that we should act within them. Respect and trust therefore are values, which helped us solving the problem with others internally and externally of our group.
Common problems might also be based on different levels of ambition. Every student here at Karlshochschule has got ambitions, some more detailed or established, others rather subconsciously. Optimally, we should combine our ambitions together in order to reach a common goal of developing our multifaceted identities. A common goal is also based on the Karlsspirit, which is shared here at Karlshochschule. The question arises, how far goes ambition? Well, according to our idea of fairness and other values, to the point we can develop ourselves without hurting others on the way. A healthy competition might be fun to a certain point, still it should not adversely affect other individuals. To prevent such critical behavior we worked with self-criticism and feedback systems. Especially within this project we were able to use these tools to gain a change of perspective and put ourselves into someone else’s situation. This enabled us to understand what we approached wrong.
To put it into a nutshell, our group might have succeeded well in working on our project, but certainly we did not succeed in the field of shared values. Reflecting our mistakes we hope to show others to prevent such behavior. Other groups might have encountered similar challenges during their project time, which is why they are able to understand how such misunderstandings might appear. The introductory company project therefore taught us a lot about working in a group, working with other groups and ethical behavior towards each other. And of course, what LED light spectrum is required when you want to grow a tomato plant in your basement.
Kieran Bumby , Franziska Franzen, Andre Heuer, Sophie Lagies, Annika Weber
If you want to get to know more about the company projects, check out our website.