The Socio-Hack Tale

What would you say to a weekend bringing an idea to life with an exuberant mix of people? This is my latest tale of my food hackathon experience. This event was a pleasant surprise as it was far from what I had expected. More importantly it made me realize it’s possible to link making to the real world. Additionally, it made more of the 21st Century skills clear, which I believe we should promote to our students.

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Networking

Do you remember your first day of school/university? The morning of the hackathon I felt like that, full of anticipation sprinkled with butterflies. My first surprise was entering the brimming room of well-dressed people. Testing the waters with anyone with a welcoming smile I quickly learned that most of the others were business students and alumni of ESADE. The host’s introduction was a reality splash that made it clear this was far from a cooking event. This initial shock slowly wore off during the speed networking dance exercise. The 1-minute sessions with each person brought up a thought:

What questions can we ask a stranger to recognize our compatibility?

When we meet someone new we often ask the basics: name, nationality, work, etc. Yet do we truly know someone from learning this? Both socializing and networking are crucial skills we need in our daily lives. As this is true I wonder if we can design social activities to improve our skills of getting to know someone.

tapaneseTeam Building

As our dancing came to an end we jumped to the next whimsical activity: forming a band. This got my mind’s gears turning once again. It occurred to me that throughout our lives we work with others. Occasionally we can choose who we work with, yet most often the selection is already made for us. Whichever the case might be it’s intriguing to see that the team building process has a flow that’s often rife with issues. The start is often a juggle of leadership and everyone’s role. If the roles and the abilities of each member are clear the project is typically a success. Yet it’s often that this process is full of ambiguity and misunderstandings. Again it seems like we should offers our students activities that make us better at forming rock solid teams and promote teamwork skills.

Judgment Time

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Once the teams were formed and we learned our instructions the room became a buzz with energetic chatter. With the clock ticking the room’s vibe shifted from a fun filled juggling of ideas to tense cramming of ideas into a neat presentation. The last few minutes seemed to rush past like a blur. While all the teams presented their colorful projects/prototypes I entered my critique mode. This brought up one last query:

How do we compare our work and skills to others?

Reflecting on our own team, many teammates were confident with our project. Although I was proud of our work, I was also oddly skeptical. As I watched the presentations I naturally ranked ours projects to the others. Using stickers on a board to vote on the most popular project intensified the social complexity of our judgment process. Did everyone stick to our personal choice during the voting process? Choosing the ideas a group, organization, or culture uses is a highly dynamic social experience. For our students how can we turn this judgment into a learning experience that drives us forward rather than shy away from self-improvement?

Let’s keep these social processes in mind when developing making programs. Even as technology intertwines its way through our daily lives, our social nature creates a dynamic that we must consider. To tackle the problems of tomorrow we must ensure positive social environments that lead to the best solutions for all of us.

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